Bus disrupters: solving the challenges of today’s urban congestion

The challenges of urban congestion have been long suffered by residents and visitors in many large African cities such as Lagos, Nairobi, Johannesburg.

Nowhere are they more evident than in Egypt’s largest city, Cairo, with a population of more than 20 million. Infrastructure is dilapidated, roads are full and public transport is not always safe, clean or reliable. For those that can afford it, taxi hailer companies such as Uber have stepped into the breach and offered an alternative to driving for a more wealthy demographic. But it is only more recently that a new way of getting from A to B, the so-called bus disrupters have been in a position to start to solve the challenges of urban congestion.

To give this some context - every day in Cairo, a quarter of the city’s population –attempt to commute to their jobs. Only 11% own a car, there is only one government bus per 4329 people and 67% of traffic is due to congestion and infrastructure - which is costing around $8bn* in Cairo alone (*World Bank). This basic lack of infrastructure delivers at best a difficult journey. Enter a new, convenient and reliable form of bus transportation, which is affordable and safe. The bus disrupters, we believe, are in an exciting space, which is trending globally with players in major cities in Africa as well as in India and China has the potential to solve many of the world’s transport problems.

Take Swvl, the company DiGAME has just invested in, which is an app-based mass transit system in Cairo. Swvl enables riders heading in the same direction to share fixed-route bus trips for a flat fare. This type of offering combines the best of on-demand hailing services, such as Uber, but is up to two thirds cheaper, but with a quality, more reliable and safer bus offering than public transport. This makes it very appealing to a large market of frustrated commuters. By using dynamic software to ensure no one is left on a street corner or arrives too late, SWVL is able to use its fleet of buses - which incidentally are idling as a result of the economic slowdown in Egypt - in the most efficient manner to provide an excellent service. It already has a loyal following of aspirational tech-savvy young Egyptians who are delighted with a new more inclusive and affordable solution to their transport woes.

Not only are bus disrupter services taking more cars off the road and providing more reliable commuting, they are also helping to combat pollution and congestion, the number one cause of death of young people in Cairo (*WHO). What the rapid adoption of Swvl and other similar services has demonstrated over the past couple of years in Cairo, is the huge opportunity of technology driven companies to complement state services and provide a real social impact as a result of something as simple as improved travel. We are delighted to be supporting the Swvl team.

Samer Salty, CIO DiGAME Investment Company