Mobility leader Gautrain's fast express train is ready to depart from O.R.Tambo International Airport station to Johannesburg


Industry leaders share a vision for connected mobility

Date: February 14th 2024 | Author: Catherine Goddard

Collaboration is the key ingredient for connected mobility, speakers agree at a conference staged by South Africa’s Transport Forum.

Innovation in Public Transport was the theme of the first Transport Forum virtual conference of 2024, hosted by Kuba. The event attracted an impressive line-up of speakers representing organisations at the leading edge of South Africa’s mobility industry. 

Kuba hosts respected industry figures

We were delighted to receive the presenters at our Johannesburg office. These included: Tshepo Kgobe, the newly appointed Chief Executive Officer of Gautrain Management Agency; Kagiso Khaole, General Manager of Uber’s Sub-Saharan Africa region; Rebecca Phala, National Spokesperson and Communications Manager at Santaco; and Lourens Swanepoel, Divisional Head of Transportation Planning at the City of Tshwane. 

Michael Hart, Kuba’s Chief Revenue Officer, joined by video link from London. He kicked off with a welcome to his fellow presenters and the 180+ online participants.

Accountable for today and tomorrow

Gautrain’s Tshepo Kgobe was the first to address the audience. He gave a fascinating insight into the priorities he faces as the CEO of an organisation with ambitious plans for growth and innovation. Like all CEOs, he explained, he is accountable for responding to the major issues of today and tomorrow. These include unpredictable geopolitical influences and evolving themes, such as the explosion of artificial intelligence and the journey to net zero.

He referred to environmental action being imperative, no longer a “nice to have”, and explained the ways in which Gautrain is taking proactive measures. Tshepo Kgobe acknowledged the weight of responsibility on the transport industry. He encouraged rapid adoption of clean energy and provision of sustainable, connected mobility services.

Reimagining journeys

The presentation set a tone of urgency echoed in the sessions that followed. Uber’s Kagiso Khaole spoke about the need to reimagine how people move. He said it was time to stop operating in silos, creating  a disjointed experience for users. He shared Tshepo Kgobe’s view that we must integrate multimodal journeys, and explained how Uber is doing this by unifying ticketing for planes, trains and other transport modes within a single app.

A strong theme that resonated from this presentation was the positive effect of partnerships and collaboration. Rather than rebuilding technology that already exists, he explained, we should be working with other stakeholders to deliver door-to-door transit.

Fruitful partnerships

Up next, Santaco’s Rebecca Phala spoke about innovation in the taxi industry, a cornerstone of the mobility ecosystem in South Africa, which enables 10 million commuter journeys each day. Collaboration, once more, was cited as an essential ingredient for including taxis within connected mobility networks. Rebecca Phala highlighted recent partnerships, which are supporting new initiatives, such as the use of biometric tools to assist in labour compliance and a trial of Automatic Fare Collection.

The was a perfect segway to a presentation by Kuba’s Michael Hart, who began by reflecting on the last time he addressed a Transport Focus conference back in 2020. At the time, he asserted that cash is slow to transact, costly to handle, impossible to track – and needs to be gone from mobility systems. Fast forward to 2024, he said, and not much has changed.

Despite a promising year in 2023, when two taxi associations used Kuba technology to run an AFC pilot, cash still dominates South African mobility networks. With cash comes friction, queues, inefficiency and risk to the safety of drivers and their passengers.

US mobility parallels

Michael took the audience on a journey to California and Texas, US states that have surprising parallels with South Africa. They have a high percentage of people who don’t live where they work, who depend on public transport for essential journeys. He showed how Kuba’s contactless and mobile technology, delivered in partnership with public and private entities, is making mobility more accessible and journeys more affordable.

Michael’s strong closing message was in step with Kagiso Khaole’s comments about not rebuilding technology that’s already out there. He said:

“Don’t spend time and pour money into building systems from scratch. Collaborate. Take care of defining the experience you want to bring to passengers, and we’ll take care of how it can be done.”

Cross-industry communication is vital

Closing the speaker sessions, Lourens Swanepoel from the City of Tshwane, took a look at what the future holds for public transport. He spoke of the importance of reducing the need to travel through better town planning; and of partnering with the private sector when it makes sense, as the City is doing for a Park n Ride initiative. He pressed for better communication between those responsible for delivering effective transportation. 

What can we take away from this lively event? Certainly optimism about the many mobility initiatives underway in South Africa that are challenging the way things have always been done. Kuba’s Michael Hart closed by saying, “I spoke earlier about how relatively few things have changed since I last presented to this audience. But we end on a positive note, confident in this industry’s willingness to work together and drive change.”

Catch-up on YouTube

Transport Forum’s Innovation in Public Transport conference was streamed live on YouTube, and is available to view here.