Of all the MENA countries capital cities, the Greater Cairo Region (GCR) with a present population well over the 20 million mark is a vast agglomeration with many challenges. It is a place of unique political and cultural significance for the world. It has always and still is the prime engine of economic growth and the main population centre in Egypt. The newly settled leadership facing enormous challenges has wisely decided to involve two of the many influencing factors of the country, i.e. its youth and transportation.
Prior to diving the thick of the subject, and as highlighted in an article of the UN HABITAT, Cairo lives with many key challenges; most importantly planning, infrastructure and service delivery which has been managed to barely keep up with the very rapid urban growth over the past four decades, we would like to propose in this context, this article of Centre for Mediterranean Integration of Marseille, France, titled:
October 3, 2016
Transportation has direct impact on the economy, the environment and people’s mobility. On one hand, the air quality is getting worse and there is pollution due to vehicle emissions resulted from the increasing fuel consumption. On the other hand, the large number of people working in places far away from their residence directly affect traffic negatively.
Due to the poor performance of the public transport system, there have been major changes in the methods of travel in Greater Cairo. Private cars have become the favourite mode of transport for a large percentage of Cairenes, and among the public transport users there has been a move from the formal public transport services (Metros, buses, minibuses and rails) to the informal and private services (taxis, microbuses, minibuses and three wheeled rickshaw) which have a great impact on urban transportation as it is filling the gaps of the formal public transport services in terms offering accessibility, speed, and route flexibility.
As a result of the challenges that the government faces in meeting the transportation and mobility needs; solutions have been more complicated and untraditional, that is why citizen-based innovation and initiatives are strongly encouraged to take place in solving the problem. Few years ago, new private initiatives in Egypt have offered diverse solutions to alleviate transportation problems in Greater Cairo, such as crowdsourcing mobile applications and customized ride sharing platforms, promoting fewer car usage and ownership; besides other flexible routing transit services that facilitate commuters’ trips.
Although the emergence of transport start-ups and the solutions they provided might help in solving the transport complications, and might have a great contribution to the community if successful, some of them had a short life span for various internal and external reasons (as shown below), and might be terminated at any phases of the start-up’s life cycle. It has been noticed that there is no one-size-fits-all; the start-ups that survived are the ones that are most adaptable to change, cope with the transformations and keep offering what people want. Perseverance as well as agility are core features in the success of any start-up. The question is how to keep the transport start-ups, having solutions to the severe transportation problem, to sustain?
According to some conducted researches, below are some recommendations for the Transportation Start-ups to help them survive for some time:
Since the objective of the transportation start-ups is to solve community problems, they should have a clear strategy on how they would expand in the market and affect a larger segment to attract the attention and to be sustainable.
For the transport industry, Business to Customer (B2C) service needs a large amount of funding, as it needs a quick market spread. Money will be generated when many vehicles are operated and more clients opted for the service.
The transportation field needs to be managed in a way that protects the passenger from both the road hassles and drivers harassments. Developing monitoring and evaluation system would help in that sense.
To offer a transportation service to be used by the public, it is all about developing IT. In this era, investing in a strong IT platform will distinguish one service provider from the other.
Since many governmental entities are looking at the benefit they will get in return of their provided support, the transportation start-ups have to cater to the needs of the Ministry of Transportation in solving the transportation problems. Upon the applicability of the service, and how much it aligns with the Ministry’s needs, the start-up might be supported.
Transportation start-ups that deliver almost the same service have to coordinate with each other to cover a big range and get a large number of users. The transportation start-ups should be implemented in a bigger scale to make a real difference and get the needed support.
Moving to the concept of Public Private Partnership (PPP), the role of the public sector is always needed for the progress and the development of the community services. The public sector believed in innovation and entrepreneurship and noticed that those two components play a significant role in the economic growth, thus, several governmental entities launching centres to incubate start-ups and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), few years ago, to help them build their companies professionally, yet these entities are not well marketed and their capacities are not fully utilized.
Focusing on the transportation services, the government has to encourage people and give them incentive to leave their own cars and go for the public transport as an initiative to reduce traffic jam. To achieve so, things should be prioritized, for instance: developing a good infrastructure, managing traffic properly and handling parking management. At the same time the government has to encourage and facilitate the operations of the private sector that offers solutions in the transportation domain and provides services to the public that decrease the congestion such as ride sharing in the form of carpooling, bus pooling and car-hailing services.
Finally, the first step to solve a problem is to tackle its roots. To do so, there should be cooperation between different sectors, the private sector, the public sector as well as the social community; all these segments must play a role in developing the country. Solving transportation problem is a strategic project and if all sectors worked together to solve this problem, it will be solved.
Passant Fakhr El-Din, MPA
Passant is a Faculty Affairs Officer at the American University in Cairo (AUC). She has a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the AUC, School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, and a B.Sc. in Business Administration from Ain Shams University, Faculty of Commerce, the English Section. Her research analyses the Egyptian start-ups and entrepreneurs; she is trying to highlight the crucial role of the public sector in the entrepreneurial domain and promoting the concept of Public Private Partnership “PPP”.