Government positions Gauteng as Africa’s e-mobility hub

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 13 Oct 2021
Jacob Mamabolo, Gauteng MEC for public transport and roads infrastructure.
Jacob Mamabolo, Gauteng MEC for public transport and roads infrastructure.

The Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport is moving forward with its plans to create a conducive environment for electro mobility (e-mobility) projects in the province.

This was the word from public transport and roads infrastructure MEC Jacob Mamabolo, speaking at last week’s Smarter Mobility Africa 2021.

The conference was organised by e-mobility services company Smarter Mobility Africa, in partnership with the National Department of Transport and Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport.

According to the MEC, a key strategic objective is to position Gauteng as the freight and logistics hub of the continent, through establishing an intelligent freight network supported by efficient freight and logistics handling capacity dependent on data use and the latest technologies.

Smart mobility involves creating connected and integrated transport systems, which offer flexibility and efficiency for citizens and businesses.

Last year, the Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport introduced its Smart Mobility Vision 2030, with the aim of growing the province’s economy and changing mobility patterns within the city region.

Titled “Growing Gauteng through smart mobility”, the strategy looks at taking advantage of the province’s current standing as a gateway to Africa, to position it as the freight and logistics hub for the country and the continent, while eradicating transport challenges in the province.

This connectivity and integration will cut across all modes of transport, forming a compact, integrated and efficient transport system, Mamabolo noted.

“We as a province and as a department are already embedding the theoretical and contextual issues and the plans pertaining to smart mobility into the province and then later into the country. So we are very pleased that we are one of the leading champions of smart mobility.

“The fourth industrial revolution is upon us, bringing rapid changes to the way we live our lives and adding advancements to society as a whole. Electric power technologies, digitalisation and automation give us motivation to change our lives and empower ourselves to be more productive and to flourish.

“In place of cars powered by internal combustion engine, Gauteng will have electric and autonomous vehicles; high-speed rails will transform journeys between our major cities and hugely enhance public transport and freight capacity. Drones will deliver goods to people’s houses and people will continue to produce and use more data than ever before.”

Gauteng is the economic hub of SA, the seventh-largest economy in Africa, the 26th largest urban region in the world and the sixth-largest urban agglomeration on the continent – making it the financial and technological nerve centre of Africa, he continued.

As part of the department’s key objective of integrating all modes of transport to make travel efficient for commuters, it has made strides in operationalising the Transport Authority of Gauteng, an institution critical in ensuring municipalities and provincial government align their transport planning, Mamabolo added.

The City of Johannesburg (COJ) is already preparing the initial phase of the Electric Vehicle Readiness Support Programme, which will see the city and its partners pave the way for electric vehicles and the arrival of electric buses and e-taxis.

The initiative, which forms part of the COJ’s Integrated Development Plan, aims to make the case for EV-related business models, with a particular focus on assessing the feasibility of e-taxis, e-buses and solar-powered EV charging stations across the city.

The Gauteng Provincial Government last year announced plans to invest an estimated R1.1 billion towards the Gautrain Smart Mobility project, to respond to the evolving needs of the province’s “smart” passengers.

During last year’s announcement of the Smart Mobility 2030 vision, the department listed several key projects. These included expanding the road network to connect new nodes and improve efficiencies in the movement of people and goods; mapping and digitising all minibus taxi routes in the province; and promoting transit-oriented development to decrease the distance people travel to places of work, leisure, education and home.

According to the MEC, the department is working with national government, all spheres of government and the e-mobility ecosystem, to ensure smart mobility initiatives are effective in reducing traffic congestion, increase road safety, improve the environment and make transportation more accessible and affordable.

“Transport is critical for the economy; it creates opportunities for growth, helps generate jobs and facilitates international trade and cross-border trade. Over the next five years, transport technology will change faster than any revolution since the second revolution.

“We are at a critical point of the convergence of these technologies, which will bring radically new approaches. They are already changing the community landscape through smart cars, advanced robots and location data. We must leverage these changes to make our situational lives better and create an efficient transport system,” he concluded.