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Motorbike taxis in Lagos, Nigeria. Photo: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images

Africa is the world's fastest urbanizing region, but limited public transit in most cities has led to severely congested roads, creating an acute need for investment and innovation in transportation.

Why it matters: Traffic takes a toll on both economic output and quality of life in Africa's megacities. But with mobile phone penetration approaching 50%, new technology platforms could help motorbike taxis and other services bridge the gaps in the continent's urban transportation systems.

Context: The average commuter in Lagos, Nigeria, spends 30 hours a week in traffic, so it's no surprise residents there and in other large cities are looking for new options. 

  • Competition in car ride sharing is strong as local startups compete with Uber and Estonia's successful Bolt (Taxify), fueled by investments from Chinese ride-sharing giant Didi.
  • For the upper middle class, these services have provided more transport options, but without meaningfully reducing congestion.

What's happening: Building on the interest in new mobility companies, investors are now backing new motorbike and bus ride-sharing start-ups that serve lower income customers to the tune of nearly $100 million.

Where it stands: Riders have been drawn to these companies, which offer a new measure of safety in the often accident-prone motorbike markets. They provide helmets, ensure drivers are trained and help if there is an accident — big steps up from the preexisting motorbike taxi market, which was informal and unaccountable — and many offer driver services such as insurance products and asset financing for motorbikes.

What to watch: The race among non-car based platforms will only grow more heated as they compete to increase motorbike ownership, provide maintenance, attract and retain both drivers and customers, master payment technologies and raise new rounds of funding.

Aubrey Hruby is a senior fellow in the Atlantic Council's Africa Center.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Here come Earmarks 2.0

DeLauro at a hearing in May 2020. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The House Appropriations Committee is preparing to restore a limited version of earmarks, which give lawmakers power to direct spending to their districts to pay for special projects.

Why it matters: A series of scandals involving members in both parties prompted a moratorium on earmarks in 2011. But Democrats argue it's worth the risk to bring them back because earmarks would increase their leverage to pass critical legislation with a narrow majority, especially infrastructure and spending bills.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
2 hours ago - Energy & Environment

UN says Paris carbon-cutting plans fall far short

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Nations' formal emissions-cutting pledges are collectively way too weak to put the world on track to meet the Paris climate deal's temperature-limiting target, a United Nations tally shows.

Driving the news: This morning the UN released an analysis of the most recent nationally determined contributions (NDCs) — that is, countries' medium-term emissions targets submitted under the 2015 pact.

Biden condemns Russian aggression on 7th anniversary of Crimea annexation

Putin giving a speech in Sevastapol, Crimea, in 2020. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

President Biden reaffirmed U.S. support for the people of Ukraine and vowed to hold Russia accountable for its aggression in a statement on Friday, the 7th anniversary of Russia's 2014 invasion of Crimea.

Why it matters: The statement reflects the aggressive approach Biden is taking to Russia, which he classified on the campaign trail as an "opponent" and "the biggest threat" to U.S. security and alliances.

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