Category Archives: Getting around and between Steppes

Zimbabwe’s localised, restructured economy of the 2010s: Harare/Bulawayo vs Zimbabwean secondary cities

Smaller cities across Africa are projected to double/triple in population over the next 15-25 years.

Ways to classify Zimbabwean urban areas

Given the structural adjustment policies, decline in off-farm opportunities and remittance flows, access to productive land is a major factor in ensuring balanced growth and effective service delivery in Zimbabwe’s 7-tier hierarchy of urban areas:

consolidated villages,

business centers,

rural service centers,

district service centers,

growth points,

towns

and cities.

While in the drier parts of Zimbabwe, many people have taken to mining/mineral extraction as a source of livelihoods. Several million of them. On a regular basis.

As a result, over 70% of small-scale miners have some level of mercury poisoning.

In the colonial era, towns grew where there was economic activity.

Apart from the likes of Harare and Bulawayo, there were:

Mining towns: Zvishavane, Mashava, Hwange, Shurugwi, Kadoma and Kwekwe

Estate towns: Chiredzi and Triangle

White farming towns: Chinoyi, Bindura or West Nicholson

Consider setting up your second home in a smaller town of Zimbabwe

Land reform in Zimbabwe localised the economy. Increasingly, benefits are generated in towns like Mvurwi — home to 7,500 — in Mashonaland Central. Whereas Zimbabwean megalopolises — like the capital city Harare — suffer from unregulated construction, overpopulation, power and water cuts, underemployment and strained sanitation and waste management systems.

As of October 2016, some 1,100 tonnes of garbage were generated daily in Harare.  Twice as much as that found in Johannesburg. This is partly due to slack in managing the packaging of food stuffs. Over 70 % of  domestic waste in Harare is biodegradable. But who will lead the way in the hectic city of over 1,600,000 people.

Can you keep it clean with just two automated sweepers operated by the city council?

Bulawayo is a different story. But similar in many ways.

Now let’s look at what is happening outside Zimbabwe’s mega cities.

Growth point Maphisa in Matobo district, Matabeleland South had 6 supermarkets as of October 2016 (when before 2000 there were none), 8 butcheries (from 4), 5 hardware stores (from 1) and over 30 kombi operators.

The occupied high-density stands have shot up from 223 to 1,118, while the medium-density ones have increased from 121 to 498.

Of course you can say that Harare, Masvingo and Bulawayo have all of that and much more. But the question here is comparative growth potential and harmonizing the community. In the restructured, unequally distributed economy that Zimbabwe is, managing smaller communities with their localized economies is potentially more doable than the bigger, more diverse ones.

And in terms of quality of living — with fast (even though still relatively expensive) internet, plus off-grid power from renewables like solar — we vote for smaller towns as the engines of growth in Zimbabwe.

This is what makes Zimbabwe’s provincial urban areas tick

In Chatsworth, a small town between Masvingo and Gutu-Mpandawanda, high-density stands cost USD900, medium-density USD1,400 and low-density USD4,000.

To operate a butchery and food outlet another businessman pays monthly rent of USD350. Buying two-three beasts per week, he pays USD400 – USD500 per each  and sells meat to customers at USD5 per kg.

Yet another local entrepreneur opened a large supermarket in 2012 that gets up to 200 customers cross its doors every day. She employs 34 people.

Earned in a day in Zimbabwe’s secondary towns 

I used proceeds from the hardware store to educate my children and to build my house. I built another house at my parents’ home nearby, — a businesswoman from Gutu.

Two hardware shops generate about USD300 per day each selling ploughs, harrows, cultivators as well as building materials to residents developing their stands in Chatsworth.

A cattle owner in Maphisa gets around USD800 per beast in Bulawayo. And USD50 per goat.

A brick loader in Mvurwi can get USD8. A transporter can get USD80 after accounting for fuels. Open market vendors in Chatsworth, a growth point of over 1,000 residents (and one hair salon) in Gutu district, Masvingo province, generate about USD10.

Resettled farmers start to compete with the vendors for customers: selling door to door to residents and schools.

Value supply chain in/between Zimbabwe’s secondary cities

Agro-vendors in Chatsworth — mostly women without land — have amplified the economic effect. Making use of the good transport connection to Masvingo they have made significant profits, and are the new landlords in the town: now investing intensively in new building projects.

Open market vendor in Maphisa pays USD10 for the bus to and from Bulawayo, sometimes venturing into the City of Kings three times a week.

Whereas to ship cattle from Maphisa to Bulawayo, private transporters charge USD40 per animal.

About 90% of houses built in Mvurwi used common farm bricks. Bricks sell at USD30 per thousand plus add USD15 to transport them.

A three-tonne truck owner each quarter has to pay USD87 for the truck license.

Kombis plying the Chatsworth – Mpandawana route pay USD15-20 every day at the police road blocks for operating illegally. Gutu Council requires them to enter the Mupandawana Terminus to offload passengers. They pay USD2 for each entry.

I am forced to pick and offload customers door to door or at farm gate [using dirt roads] to remain popular and sustain business.

“It is expensive for people without own transport to buy building materials from Masvingo town and load it on the train [the train to Masvingo costs USD1] or public transport. Expenses of buying from afar forces them to buy from us,” shares a Chatsworth salesman.

Special thanks to Ian Scoones and his https://zimbabweland.wordpress.com/ blog

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R&S Quantum: there will be as many electric vehicle chargers as gas station pumps

Lifecycle ownership costs of an electric vehicle are 1/10th of an internal combustion equivalent.

GREAT. What’s next?

Across the planet, companies involved in the EV charging industry “still have a lot of questions about what kind of charging, and what levels, will prove to be the most cost-effective.”

Oleh Martychenko of R&S Quantum, a Ukrainian  fast EV charger manufacturer, estimates that as many electric vehicle chargers will at some stage be deployed in the world as the number of gas station pumps today. Mr Martychenko is also an M&A expert.

Oleh
Oleh Martychenko of R&S Quantum, a Ukraine-based manufacturer of fast chargers for electric vehicles

Before that happens, as an EV charging station operator/service provider at peak hours should you aim for a max 5 min charge and max three vehicles in the line before each charging port? Or is it already bordering on the risk of scaring loyalty out of EV drivings customers?

To learn more go to R&S Quantum.

Make sense of this gap in Namibia’s infrastructure funding

The Southern African nation of some two and a half million has a funding gap of N$150 billion (over US$10bn) for upgrading infrastructure including railways, roads, housing, ports and airports.

With nominal GDP at US$13.7bn, 5% of Namibia’s national budget is used to fund infrastructure development.

Namibia infrastructure funding 2016 on
Namibia infrastructure funding 2016 on

Nairobi gets smart mobility, one trust-building app at a time

a version of this interview first appeared on Smart City Africa blog

​Last week we spoke about ways in which city authorities and national governments in Africa solve congestion through mass transit innovation. Now we invite you to look at private initiatives that aim to enhance mobility experience in African cities. Jason Eisen of Kenyan Maramoja app sat down with Smart City Africa’s Andy Kozlov to look at the role of trust as we criss-cross our cities.

Jason Eisen of Kenyan Maramoja app
Jason Eisen of Kenyan Maramoja app

Andy Kozlov: You say that Maramoja is not just a smart mobility app. It’s rather about building trust in a community. How so? What are the applications that you promote apart from connecting citizens with their trusted taxi driver?

MARAMOJA is absolutely about smart mobility. We just happen to believe that facilitating trust is the most important contribution we can make to the mobility (and eventually) larger on-demand economy. Many of the challenges people face when trying to move around Nairobi and other cities are about interactions between people – trust. Do I trust this motorbike taxi to be a safe rider with a well-maintained bike? Do I trust this taxi driver to charge me a fair price and get me there safely? Do I trust this person to carry my son?

As for other applications of our trust engine, you could think of it like this – MARAMOJA the mobility solution is an open product – our trust engine is in limited beta with our mobility clients but we have big eyes to the future and see ourselves playing a key role as the “trust” infrastructure layer for the on-demand economy. 

screencapture-maramoja-co-ke-1460959916123

Andy Kozlov: For many from the international crowd, when you talk about Kenya and mobile tech, it is Ushahidi that springs to mind. Has Ushahidi had any influence whatsoever on Maramoja and the values behind your app?

Ushahidi is definitely one of the great success stories from Kenya but that is 2007 already. There have been so many great technological advances out of Kenya in the 9 years since that there’s really no shortage of places to look to for inspiration. I would say that the values behind Ushahidi very much reflect the general values of the startup culture in Nairobi – which if I had to put into words I would say is about technology for people – technology that builds on our humanity and the bonds between us, rather than replace or diminish them. MARAMOJA is no different. We reconceptualized the taxi app from the ground up to be about relationships and trust. Human concepts. In doing so, we have built something in the trust engine that we believe will also have global application.

Unlike Uber, Maramoja app uses zone-based pricing to eliminate conflict between driver and passenger
Unlike Uber, Maramoja app uses zone-based pricing to eliminate conflict between driver and passenger

Andy Kozlov: How different are you from Uber?

Our basic mobility service offering is similar, transport on-demand through an app, but the similarities end there. I think most of our core differences stem from our values. We are built around people and relationships. As such, we always try to align incentives of ourselves, our drivers, and passengers. Take pricing – Uber uses time & distance which immediately puts the driver and passenger at conflict. We use zone-based pricing because it eliminates this conflict between driver and passenger. We also recognize that not every car on the market here is newer than 6 years old, so rather than excluding many great drivers we find that allowing our users to choose between the various available drivers that have accepted their ride, based on their proximity, their relationship with the driver, their car, credentials or any other factor that the client personally cares about.

Polina Kazak, Co-Founder and Creative Director of Maramoja, comes from Belarus
Polina Kazak, Co-Founder and Creative Director of Maramoja, comes from Belarus

Andy Kozlov: Superficially speaking, any other IT group in some other African city can come up with a solution similar to Maramoja. Still, what makes you stand out? Why are you convinced there is room for expansion for your app into other African countries?

Perhaps some other IT group could devise a similar solution but our UX and technology will set us apart from copycats. Trust is an incredibly emotional concept that relies great design to convey that human quality through an app. Co-Founder and Creative Director Polina Kazak has been with the company since day one. She creates that emotional connection with our users that gives the feeling of comfort, and security that can only come with working with trusted service providers. The company hit a major turning point when we met Bastian Blankenburg, PhD, who serves as MARAMOJA’s CTO. Bastian is a brilliant computer scientist with tremendous expertise artificial intelligence and machine learning as they pertain to trust. In short, I suppose I can say it will be our people that set us apart. I couldn’t imagine a more purpose-built team to build the future of trust and on-demand than the MARAMOJA crew.

Andy Kozlov: In what African cities can we expect to use your app by early 2017? Will the first solution on offer always be trusted taxi service-related?

You’ll have to wait and see…but don’t be surprised when we show up near you.

Andy Kozlov:  How come your team of developers has a German and a Belorussian specialists?

There’s no particular reason our CTO is German or our Creative Director Belorussian any more than there’s a reason that the CEO is American. Our first CTO was Kenyan, it just so happened to not work out with him. Each of our team members have their jobs because they are the absolute perfect people to fill them – nothing to do with origin. But one of the great things about the Nairobi tech scene, is that the talent pool really is global. We can draw the best from around the world and will continue to do so.

Andy Kozlov: Did they get attracted to the project specifically because of the exciting prospect to help urban communities in Kenya?

No doubt, each of is inspired by and believes that our work has a positive impact on Kenyans. I think they got attracted to the project for the enormity of my vision, of where we could go, and the revolution we could bring to the global on-demand economy. And they brought their own visions too – we were lucky enough that our visions really jived with each others and we instantly began making great strides together. There’s no feeling in the world like being part of a great team.