Security measures implemented earlier this month on the Sena Railway in Mozambique have allowed Brazilian mining giant Vale to resume coal transport. The country’s state-owned transport utility Empresa Portos e Caminhos de Ferro de Moçambique (CFM) took responsibility for ensuring security on the line, after a string of attacks by Renamo forces.
Renamo assaults in northern and central Mozambique over the past two years have forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes, and caused the shutdown of some transport links. Trucks travelling along the north-south highway have had to travel in convoys with military escorts this year, and even then there have been some attacks.
Yet the scale of the impact on Mozambique’s nascent coal industry was only recently when the government confirmed that coal trains did not run on the Sena line between the end of July and mid-November because of fears of Renamo violence. Attacks on trains in May and June had resulted in temporary stoppages but after another assault in Sofala Province in July left several railway employees injured, operations on the line were suspended for several months.
The nature of the new security measures has not been revealed, partly in order to avoid giving information to potential assailants, but it is likely that armed guards have been put on the trains and patrols stepped up along the route of the line, particularly in Tsangano district.
Rising coal production
The Sena line is one of three railways that are being developed to transport coal from the Moatize Basin in Tete Province to the Indian Ocean coastal ports of Beira and Nacala. It runs to Beira and handled 22 trains a day in each direction prior to the July attack.
The government hopes that the three lines will jointly carry 100m tonnes of coal a year, which would enable Mozambique to overtake South Africa as Africa’s biggest coal exporter. Recent improvements on the Sena Railway have increased its annual coal carrying capacity from 6.5m tonnes a year 20m tonnes a year.
Much longer trains can now operate on the line, with six locomotives pulling 100 coal waggons. At the same time, Vale is pressing ahead with doubling its mining capacity in Tete to 22m tonnes a year. It had looked like such investment could be misplaced because coal prices crashed in 2015 but they have recovered strongly this year.
Similar measures may have to be put in place on the new line that runs from Moatize to Nacala, which passes through Malawi en route. The construction of this line has been largely financed by Vale. Coal trains bound for Nacala were assaulted at least twice in October.
Transport connections in this part of Mozambique are very limited and so it is relatively easy for Renamo fighters to attack trains and then melt away into the forest. It is hoped that access to the new railways for general cargo will boost wider economic development in the region. Nacala, which is reputed to have the deepest natural harbour on the east coast of Africa, now hosts a modern container terminal.
Renamo fought a long and devastating civil war against the government from independence in 1975 until 1992, backed by white supremacist governments in Zimbabwe and South Africa. The movement has contested every national election since then but has become disenchanted with its lack of success. The likelihood of substantial coal and gas income for the government may have encouraged its leaders to make a grab for power.
Noting the obstacles that persons with disabilities or those with other access requirements face in taking advantage of fundamental aspects of travel, senior United Nations officials today urged policy-makers, travel planners and companies that work with persons with disabilities to work together to make travel more accessible.
“Everyone has the right to access leisure and tourism services on an equal basis,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his message on World Tourism Day. He added, however: “Even with modern technologies, those with visual, hearing, mobility or cognitive impairments are being left behind in many tourism destinations.”
According to the message, while almost 1.2 billion people are travelling aboard each year, close to one billion persons with disability, along with young children, older persons and persons with other access requirements, still face obstacles in accessing the most basic travel needs such as clear and reliable information, efficient transportation and public services, and a physical environment that is easy to navigate.
“Tourism has become a powerful economic sector, a passport to prosperity and peace, and a transformative force improving millions of lives,” noted Mr. Ban, underlining that benefits of accessible tourism will not only provide an important market opportunity, it will help ensure that all people are able to participate in tourism and enjoy unforgettable travel experiences.
The theme for this year’s World Tourism Day is Tourism for All – Promoting Universal Accessibility.
In a separate message, Taleb Rifai, the Secretary-General of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the specialized UN agency that works for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism, highlighted that travelling has become a major part in many lives and said that with the world’s population ageing, everyone sooner or later will benefit from universal accessibility in tourism.
“As we celebrate World Tourism Day, let us recall that all of the world’s citizens have the right to experience the incredible diversity this planet has to offer,” he said, urging all countries and destinations, as well as the tourism industry, to promote accessibility for all.
In September 2015, the UNWTO’s general assembly designated Thailand as host country for the 2016 World Tourism Day. As the host, the South-east Asian country will partner with the UN agency to celebrate the occasion.
In her own message, Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, Minister of Tourism and Sports of Thailand, said that in addition to understanding the needs of everyone, considering the environment impact of tourism is equally important.
“As the world of travel and tourism is an expanding industry and the number of travellers increases every year, we have to ensure that travelling the world has to be safe and seamless at its utmost,” she said.
In 1979, the UNWTO General Assembly decided to institute the World Tourism Day to be commemorated every year on 27 September, the anniversary of the adoption of the UNWTO Statutes, to foster awareness among the international community of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic value.
Transportation accounts for around one-seventh of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. And globally, greenhouse gas emissions are rising faster in transportation than in any other sector, with rapid motorization — more cars and trucks — being the principal cause.
Enhanced mobility has many positive effects on economic development and social welfare, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, including more efficient movement of goods and improved access to jobs, health services and education. But if this is achieved primarily through increased reliance on conventional private cars, it can mean diverting substantial financial resources to roads and suffering worse air pollution and traffic congestion. The benefits are huge, but the costs also can be significant. And this is accentuated in the developing nations of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Most are experiencing rapid population growth and urbanization, and many have fast-growing economies.
But while the United States and some other wealthy countries struggle with crumbling transportation infrastructure riddled with underfunded bus, subway and light rail systems, many developing countries in the global South are facing an interesting challenge: developing low-carbon transportation systems where no formal transportation infrastructure previously existed. This provides both an opportunity and a challenge: because many cities in the global South lack substantial public transportation infrastructure, they can start with a relatively clean slate — but starting from scratch also can be difficult.
Some developing countries also face issues of changing the historical transportation industry structure, said Rachel Kyte, VP of sustainable development at the World Bank, in a 2011 interview. Many countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia have bus systems that are owned and operated by a large number of small operators. Having a large number of small operators allows for low-cost services, but often leads to poor quality due to severe competition. Other problems include dangerous driving practices, pollution and a tendency to have too much service on profitable routes and virtually no service on non-profitable routes.
Despite these challenges, some current and forthcoming innovations in public transportation are already or soon could help countries in the global South achieve low-carbon transportation systems. Here are some of the promising:
1. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)
BRT is a bus-based mass transit system that generally has specialized design, services and infrastructure to improve system quality and remove the typical causes of delay. Sometimes described as a “surface subway,” BRT aims to combine the capacity and speed of light rail or metro with the flexibility, lower cost and simplicity of a bus system.
One of the best examples of BRT in the global South is the TransMilenio in Bogotá, Colombia. Opened to the public in 2000, TransMilenio consists of several interconnecting BRT lines, each composed of many elevated stations in the center of a main avenue. Users pay at the station entrance using a smart card, pass through a turnstile and wait for buses inside the station. The bus and station doors open simultaneously, and passengers board by walking across the threshold. TransMilenio buses enjoy their own dedicated lanes on the city’s sprawling and congested roads. For a city of 9 million people, TransMilenio was a godsend.
During my year living in Bogotá, I experienced TransMilenio firsthand, as it was my primary means of transportation across the sprawling city. While the system works well during non-peak hours, trying to use it during rush hour is a lesson into what it’s like to be a sardine. Granted, my Colombian friends told me of the horrors of trying to get across town before TransMilenio — people were forced to take so-called colectivos, or small private buses that run random routes throughout the city. Colectivos still play an integral role in getting people around, but for long-distance travel within the city, TransMilenio drastically cuts commute times — while it could take hours on a colectivo to get from one side of the city to the other, TransMilenio can cut this down to less than an hour.
2. Traffic-Straddling Buses
As crazy as it sounds, China has built a massive bus that straddles multiple lanes of cars to move commuters without creating additional traffic. Recently unveiled in Qinhuangdao, China, the prototype bus is limited to a 300 meter long track, with limited turns and traffic challenges.
If the bus proves capable of handling a wide variety of streets and traffic conditions, it could one day carry upwards of 1,200 passengers at speeds of close to 40 miles per hour. Adding a fleet of these buses to a crowded city center would be hundreds of millions of dollars cheaper than introducing new subways or elevated trains to help ease congestion.
First proposed in 2013 by Tesla and SpaceX visionary Elon Musk, the ‘Hyperloop’ Transport System, has been promised to be capable of rapidly transporting people from Los Angeles to San Francisco via a tube in under 30 minutes. Earlier this year,Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), the startup aspiring to bring the Hyperloop to life, began construction on a full-scale, passenger-ready Hyperloop. The prototype will run 5 miles through Quay Valley, a planned community rising from nothing along Interstate 5, midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
But the first commercial application of the Hyperloop technology would make more sense in the developing world, according to Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of HTT, during an appearance late last year. Cities such as Beijing and Bombay have serious transportation problems, and the Hyperloop could help address them. If powered by renewable energy, the Hyperloop could provide a form of fast, efficient and sustainable travel. Musk claimed that the Hyperloop is going to do for the 21st century what the railroad did for the 19th.
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At the San Francisco headquarters of Uber, three televisions greet visitors and employees just past the check in desk. The central screen plays a video on repeat: “Moving riders, moving partners, moving newlyweds, moving ice cream, moving Kenya, moving China, moving Australia, moving anywhere.” On the opposite wall, bright green dots are plotted on a black world map, demonstrating the spread of this ride hailing company that just completed its 2 billionth ride.
Uber has evolved from an app that would summon fancy town cars to the most highly valued startup in the world. The transportation company, which has caused some controversy and made some enemies, sometimes activates its platform for social good, providing free rides to give blood or cast votes or donate clothes. But it is through its hyper focus on efficiency that Uber may have the most potential to benefit riders and drivers across the 473 cities and 76 countries where it works.
Uber is focused on building its business, which is what has made the brand so ubiquitous that it has become, like Google, a verb as well as a noun. The company has expanded its mission from providing rides on demand to reinventing transportation as we know it. While sustainable global development is by no means Uber’s goal, the byproduct of its business has early stage impact and long term potential in areas like safe roads and clean air that have traditionally fallen within the domain of aid agencies.
Turning every car into a shared car
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is an engineer turned entrepreneur known for his obsession with efficiency. He described the original idea behind the company, which launched in 2009, as allowing him and his friends to “roll around San Francisco like ballers.” That mission has since expanded to putting more people in fewer cars.
It is efficiency that has led to new services that can reduce costs as well as emissions, the most notable of which is uberPOOL. POOL, which matches riders heading in the same direction for a shared trip, now makes up 20 percent of Uber rides globally.
“What has succeeded in making carpooling and ridesharing mainstream is a company that set out at the beginning to make a high end black car app, moved to uberX to get a lower price and expand the market, and moved to uberPOOL as part of a commercial imperative to use space and driver time more efficiently,” Andrew Salzberg, head of transportation policy and research at Uber, told Devex. He previously worked as an urban transport specialist for the World Bank, one of many agencies that has considered ways to incentivize ridesharing to make transportation more sustainable.
The road map for every Uber city includes POOL, which has expanded to 41 cities across the world, with recent launches in Bogota, Colombia, and Jakarta, Indonesia. The carpooling service has yet to reach sub-Saharan Africa, where general managers are first working to attract enough riders to make the service viable. Still, even without combining passengers, the Uber platform maximizes the number of rides that individual cars are providing daily in these markets.
While Uber is a data driven platform with software that guides most of its operations, POOL is “by far the most interesting thing” the company has done with data, Salzberg said. Algorithms determine how much riders should pay for POOL, constantly integrating new insights and adapting as a result. And the company is gathering information on the hundreds of thousands of gallons of gas and thousands of metric tons of carbon dioxide the service saves.
“With the technology in our pockets today, and a little smart regulation, we can turn every car into a shared car,” Kalanick said in a recent TED Talk. If the startup can make car free lifestyles more realistic in markets where mass car ownership has not yet happened, there would be significant impacts extending from infrastructure to environment to health. Still, the public sector plays a critical role.
“Uber is a testament that the global development community needs to continue pushing the envelope in terms of innovations that promote sustainable transport,” said Christopher Kost, Africa program director at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy. The success of the company thus far demonstrates the way technology can gather actionable data, monitor system performance, and improve customer experience, he said.
“Bringing these features to public transport systems will require more action from governments and entrepreneurs to innovate; measure societal impacts; and tackle policy, market, and cultural barriers,” Kost added.
Accelerating expansion and employment
While the app is only useful to those who have smart phones and spare income, it is quickly expanding in the developing world, with recent additions in Africa including Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; Accra, Ghana; and Kampala, Uganda.
“Uber’s ambition is to be everywhere — any progressive, forward-thinking city that has a need for safe, reliable and efficient transportation, we want to be there,” Alon Lits, general manager of sub-Saharan Africa at Uber, told Devex via email. “We are part of a broader mobility movement, establishing smart cities of the future, and we are constantly exploring our options of where to go next.”
But regulatory roadblocks remain. In many countries, regulators have tried to level the playing field between traditional taxis and smartphone apps they say have an unfair advantage. Other countries are making new ridesharing laws that recognize Uber and related services as “transportation network companies.”
While Mexico City was the first city in Latin America to regulate Uber, a year after the rules were created, the city government has yet to create the fund it announced to collect revenue from ridesharing apps.
The city, home to the largest taxicab fleet in the world, has seen violent confrontations between Uber drivers and official taxi drivers. Battles such as these are being staged on streets across the world because cab drivers say Uber is undermining their businesses by driving prices down and offering services that taxis cannot. But Mexico City also represents an example of the pace at which Uber is expanding from urban to suburban areas, including less wealthy areas historically underserved by transportation, Matthew Devlin, who leads international relations at Uber, said at Devex World.
“So you think about what that means in terms of creating access to jobs, to education, to healthcare, allowing people to participate in the social and civic life of their city,” he said.
Because Uber is a marketplace that matches riders with drivers, the company is constantly adding to the 1.1 million active drivers on its platform to keep up with demand. While driver complaints about the downsides of the freelance model, including the lack of benefits, has led to the launch of new startups focused on making drivers happy, Uber advertises the flexibility the platform gives drivers to be their own bosses.
Last year, the company committed to create 1 million jobs for women drivers on the Uber platform by 2020. But while this offers a public relations boost, the 1 Million Women initiative is — like every Uber priority — ultimately all about operations.
“The reasons why this initiative matters are so fundamental to our business,” Blaire Mattson, global lead for the initiative, told Devex. “I deeply care about it. All the people I work with closely care about it. But because it’s embedded in our business, caring about it is not a prerequisite to actually getting things done on it.”
Uber is partnering with local nongovernmental organizations to implement the initiative, including iCare Life, a social enterprise that trains women drivers in India and takes them through the commercial licensing process.
While the global taxi industry is male dominated, the technology behind Uber minimizes some of the safety concerns that can be a barrier to entry for women. Before accepting a ride, Uber drivers can see the ratings of their passengers, and those riders have a digital trail including trips tracked by GPS. Uber is drilling into its data to understand the differences between male and female driver behavior, identify the gaps between signing up for the service and taking the first trip, and design ways to incentivize women drivers to use the platform.
“Think about the nature of our business: push a button to get a ride. That is a simple concept, but you unpack that, and so many factors come into play to make that happen,” said Ebi Atawodi, the general manager of Uber Nigeria. “Wherever you go and whatever business you take to market, if you don’t understand your market and adapt your service for that market, it creates a disconnect.”
Like every Uber country office, Uber Nigeria is a locally incorporated company that hires employees, runs support services, and adapts the platform to meet the demands of local consumers. For example, while Uber riders in most markets pay via credit card through the app, riders in Nigeria and across sub-Saharan Africa have the option to pay in cash. Many of these riders and drivers handle these transactions via mobile money transfers such as M-Pesa.
The most populous city in Africa, Lagos, Nigeria, serves as an example of why cities simply cannot afford a future in which ridesharing and carpooling are not the norm, Atawodi said.
While some customers are simply making the switch from taxis to apps, others have entirely new options to get from point A to point B now that Uber has come to town. Take Saudi Arabia, the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive. Women there make up more than 80 percent of the Uber customer base, and before they could simply open the app and request a ride, women had to rely on private drivers if they could afford them, make several calls to find an available driver, or wait half an hour for the limo companies Uber now works with.
But if companies such as Uber want to make a transformative impact on congestion, which can be a major drain on national economies, they should do more to share their data, said Holly Krambeck, senior transport specialist at the World Bank.
“Transport agencies currently spend enormous amounts of time and resources collecting basic data about the transportation network,” she told Devex. “If they could leverage the sizable GPS datasets generated by taxi hailing apps, there are opportunities for unprecedented economies of scale in traffic analysis and congestion management.”
Uber, however, has distinguished between anonymized and aggregated data and the personally sensitive information the company is often asked to share. While the company is forced to provide some data to cities and regulators, it also wants to preserve its trade secrets and protect the private information of its riders and drivers.
Silicon Valley is not the only source of large, successful car hailing app companies. Uber’s primary competitor is Lyft, also headquartered in San Francisco. But Didi Chuxing in China, Ola in India, Easy Taxi in Latin America, and Grab in Southeast Asia have also achieved economies of scale that make them formidable regional competitors.
Uber views competition not just as other smart phone apps, but as any other way people might get around the city — from bikes to buses to cars of their own. Still, the startup does face competition in the more traditional sense. Didi Chuxing is buying Uber China, creating a new company as part of the merger in which Uber will have an 18 percent stake.
In Kenya, the mobile network operator Safaricom announced a partnership with a local software firm to launch a new ride hailing service that could pose a real threat to Uber in that country. And Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed in his recently updated “master plan” that the electric car company plans to develop fully autonomous vehicles that can make money for their owners when they aren’t using them by picking up other riders.
Of course, shared taxis and microbuses — like jeepneys in the Philippines or matatus in Kenya — were popular modes of transportation in developing countries long before Uber arrived on the scene. But car hailing apps improve upon this model, which is usually frowned upon by local authorities as chaotic and unmanageable, in a few key ways.
“Smartphones have the ability to organize that chaos: introducing rating systems, convenient electronic payment, and the ability to have on-demand travel,” said Robin Chase, the co-founder and former CEO of the car sharing network Zipcar. “Uber is an example of how we can tame a mode of transportation that already exists.”
G-Auto in India, which is providing 4.5 million trips a month on 15,000 rickshaws that are owned by individuals, available on demand, and rated, is one example of local entrepreneurs “uberizing” their models. Chase said she would like to see more of these. But while Uber has inspired countless spin offs, the company has also caused the closure of similar apps, and generated opposition or even hostility from the taxi market and local startups.
If Uber expands to Kigali, Rwanda, Peter Kariuki, chief technology officer at the taxi motorbike hailing app SafeMotos, sees two possibilities. Uber could either crash and burn or succeed, in which case SafeMotos might be forced expand to serve new markets that do not yet have the population density Uber seeks.
As Uber aims to fill that world map on its office wall with new green dots, there will be tradeoffs. For example, the investment Uber is making in autonomous cars, which may make roads safer, could also eliminate the jobs the company is creating.
But, from uberPOOL to 1 Million Women to recently announced plans for a global mapping project, whatever will make the platform more efficient, and therefore enable Uber to put more people in fewer cars, will determine how the company handles forks in the road.
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The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates about one-third of the food produced globally goes to waste, creating a massive amount of greenhouse gas emissions and needlessly squandering water, land, labor and energy resources. This waste is drawing the attention of global agriculture organizations and financial institutions, which have started to back initiatives aimed at scaling back food waste.
But a group of farmers in Uganda have already come up with a solution: transforming food into novel products with a longer shelf life. FSRN’s Ngala Killian Chimtom reports.
Elizabeth Nsimadala is a 36-year-old mother of two from a small village in Southern Uganda. She’s a founding member of a group of female farmers who have been making big returns by turning bananas into wine, a relatively novel product now adding diversity to Uganda’s cuisine. But it was not always so.
Before the year 2000, Nsimadala struggled to make ends meet in agriculture, frequently going hungry and repeatedly unable to pay school fees for her kids. Then an NGO came along, teaching farmers in her area about better ways of producing and managing banana yields. And while the methods did increase output, Nsimadala says it had unintended consequences.
“The project, which was supposed to be a blessing to the communities, became a problem because there was overproduction, but the prices decreased. So, instead of getting money from bananas, a bunch went as low as 500 Uganda Shillings, this is something like a quarter of a dollar,” Nsimadala explains. “So it went so low, to that level, and people were instead chopping the bananas and giving them to animals. So they became of no use.”
Her story is common across Africa, where harvested food crops are often lost because the cost of transporting them to markets is more expensive than letting them rot in place. Meanwhile, people who need food the most don’t have money to buy it.
Nana Osei-Bonsu, CEO of Private Enterprise Federation, Ghana, says this aggravates food insecurity on the continent.
“[There’s] $4 billion (USD) equivalent of food losses in a year in the continent and if you can conceptualize what four billion can do to alleviate poverty in our various countries, then you can understand the waste and the economic deprivation that food loss is causing the continent,” Osei-Bonsu points out. “Apart from food losses, there is food waste, they are two different things. The food waste is the cooked food that we don’t use. At the end of the day, they are not apportioned to people who need it, and we have about 800 million in the world going hungry every day and we have excesses of food that are going to waste.”
The causes of food loss and food waste in Africa are closely linked to lack of infrastructure, affordable transportation, and even harvesting techniques, says Nana Osei Bonsu: “Let me give you an example: tomatoes. People harvest them when they are red. When they are red and you pick them, they don’t even last 36 hours! But if you pick them green, they give you seven days or more. So, there are a lot of factors that contribute to this magnitude of losses.”
The inefficiency of moving food stocks to hungry mouths can be an even bigger problem in 50 years, when Africa’s population is expected to double.
“If the world’s population doubles, what should we double then?” asks Moussa Seck, chairman of the Pan African Agribusiness and Agro Industry Consortium. “It’s not cars. It’s not highways. It’s mostly food. But the problem is, mankind has made ten thousand years in order to count today seven billion tons of food. Ten thousand years of constant progress. And when the world population doubles in 50 years, we have to double these seven billion tons.”
African countries, through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program, say they are committed to eliminating hunger and cutting extreme poverty in half by 2025. How this will be achieved, according to Seck, is not only through production, but more importantly, by avoiding the loss and waste of food already produced.
Elizabeth Nsimadala and other farming women in Uganda could offer significant lessons in this regard. The bananas that used to be thrown away are now fetching them significant returns on their investment, thanks to value addition. In other words, processing the crop into another, more novel product with a longer shelf life.
“We were trained in banana wine production. We started on a small scale, but for any new innovation that comes, it takes some time for people to embrace it. But later on, our mindset kept on changing,” Nsimadala says. “When I do a comparison between the prices, it’s actually more than a hundred percent. A bunch that can go for $10, once processed, you can be able to make a net profit of $200 (USD), which is unbelievable to many. To me it’s a reality because I am doing it. We are doing it and we are getting the results.”
Nsimadala’s success has been hailed as a best practice by the African Union, but continues to be an exception to the rule. In the short term however, Bonsu recommends that African governments set up agencies to buy and store food in peak season, for eventual redistribution during lean periods.
FISITA stands for the Fédération Internationale des Sociétés D’ingénieurs des Techniques de L’Automobile. To make it easier, think of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) on a global scale. Dr. Chris Borroni-Bird, vice president for Strategic Development at Qualcomm has posted a proposal on the FISITA website that calls for a new mobility model for Africa.
The idea is predicated on the fact that much of Africa has little or no formal transportation infrastructure. Therefore, conventional vehicles meant to travel on conventional roads are not suitable for transportation in many parts of Africa. Borroni-Bird proposes that a solar-powered low-speed electric vehicle would be ideal for use in Africa’s poorest communities. Its basic architecture would provide a frame, an electric motor, brakes, and a steering mechanism. Everything else could be constructed inexpensively using materials available locally.
Such a vehicle could enable the growth of commerce at the most basic level. The solar-powered EVs could provide transportation to collect wood from the forest or water from a well. The time saved by not having to do these daily chores on foot would enable the manufacture of local goods that could then become part of a micro-economy. It might also create time that could be used for education and community-building activities.
A low-speed, lightweight vehicle could travel easily between adjacent villages. That could facilitate access to fertilizer to grow crops and a connection to markets to sell goods. It would also expand healthcare opportunities. When not being used for transportation, the vehicle could be used to power water pumps, grind grain, or charge cellphones.
The idea is similar to what Philips is doing with its new line of solar-powered lights designed specifically for rural communities in Africa that do not have access to conventional electrical grids. The lights provide a source of illumination that makes educational and commercial activities possible after sunset for the first time in many parts of the continent.
For many who are not familiar with Africa, it is easy to assume that the vehicles and infrastructure we are accustomed to in the developed world can just be imported to Africa and be useful. We fail to recognize how rudimentary life in much of that continent can be.
What Dr. Borroni-Bird does is simplify the notion of what transportation means for residents of Africa and reduce it to its component parts. It is a classic example of “less is more” thinking. It recognizes that everything we think of as normal in our world is not necessarily what people in other parts of the world need in theirs.
With a higher tensile strength than steel, a lighter weight than aluminum, and four times the shock absorbency of carbon fiber, bamboo is a low-cost, low-carbon bike frame material.
One of the most viable and sustainable transportation technologies on the planet is already mature, and although it may not seem nearly as sexy as something like the Hyperloop, the humble bicycle is actually a far more relevant and accessible way to get around, whether it’s to the office or the grocery store or hauling goods to the market from a rural village.
But just because a technology has been refined into an effective and efficient option for daily use, as the bicycle has, doesn’t mean that progress stops, as evidenced by the virtual explosion of e-bike designs, folding bikes, and alternative frame materials (most recently, coppiced hardwood). And while I’m generally not in favor of trying to reinvent the wheel, so to speak, I’m almost always in favor of projects that seek to bring low-carbon and sustainable alternatives to the mainstream, especially those that also have a social good component that focuses on the developing world.
That’s why I’m really jazzed about Pedal Forward, which combines the production of bamboo bicycles for those of us in the West with the intention of meeting the basic transportation needs of those who really need it (not that we don’t need our bicycles, but considering that more than 70% of the world’s poor live without adequate transportation, the need is far greater for them than for most of us).
Pedal Forward has been working on a sustainable and affordable bamboo bicycle for the last couple of years, receiving a big nod from the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) with an award in 2012, and has taken its original design from a decidedly DIY-looking bike frame (held together with what looks like copious amounts of resin and fibers) to a really unique ‘modular’ frame. Instead of joining the bamboo frame pieces together with a bulky and rather unsightly mass of material, Pedal Forward uses steel ‘lugs’ for the crucial joints (bottom bracket, seat post, head tube and front fork, and rear drop-outs), and then epoxies in “iron bamboo” tubes to build the frame.
This method of frame-building allows for the tubes to be grown locally (depending on the location), and to be truly renewable in nature, while also creating employment opportunities in the areas where bikes are most needed. It also radically cuts the amount of emissions associated with the manufacturing process, as compared with a conventional steel bike, and delivers affordable and sustainable transportation options “that turn heads without breaking the bank.”
“Bamboo has superior material properties. It is lightweight, comparable to aluminum. It also has a higher tensile strength than steel and has four-times the shock absorbency of carbon fiber. Bamboo provides the best of these materials into a simple mode of transportation; a lightweight, aluminum bicycle that rides as stiff as a steel bicycle, and is more shock absorbent than a carbon fiber bicycle. Bamboo is also much less expensive than these three materials, leading to its moderate cost for a handcrafted product. A Pedal Forward bicycle costs $500, four-times lower the cost than bamboo bicycles currently on the market.” – Pedal Forward
The company is currently in a crowdfunding phase and seeking to raise $40,000 with a Kickstarter project (which really isn’t that much money, considering the millions raised by an über-fancy cooler and a funny card game), and is offering a full-on Pedal Forward bamboo bicycle (set up as a singlespeed/fixed gear) for just $500, or just the frame itself for $400 (so you can dress it up in all your favorite components yourself). And the bike itself isn’t just an eco-friendly product with a mission, but it also looks great, so you’ll probably be fending off questions every time you ride, which means that this bamboo bike could also be a pretty effective ice-breaker and conversation starter.
Pedal Forward is also working together with a program called Back on My Feet (BoMF) NYC for producing the bikes, which will allow some members of the program to learn valuable skills that may help them be better employed and further their opportunities for independent living.
Find out more about Pedal Forward, and its plan to enable more access to education, healthcare, and jobs for people in developing economies through bicycles and bamboo.
Freight logistics group Transnet has secured a R2.8-billion loan from Germany’s KfW Development Bank to fund part of its 1064 locomotives acquisition programme.
Transnet would use the proceeds to fund the acquisition of 240 electric locomotives to be built in cooperation with Bombardier Transportation at Transnet’s manufacturing facilities in Durban.
Transnet acting CEO Siyabonga Gama and KfW head of infrastructure in Southern Africa Dr Jan Martin Witte signed the agreement on Monday.
“The agreement is evidence of Transnet’s focus on agility and innovation in raising the required funding to execute its R336-billion rolling seven-year infrastructure investment programme – the Market Demand Strategy.
“Agreements like this are an affirmation of Transnet’s successful efforts in strengthening its financial position and confirm that the company is on the right track. They are an attestation of the attractiveness, commercial viability and bankability of Transnet and its projects from reputable international investors,” the State-owned group said.
The loan would mature in 15 years, with a five-year grace period in which Transnet would only pay interest.
In line with the company’s currency risk mitigation policy, the agreement was negotiated in rand terms and, therefore, had no currency risk. The cost of the loan was in line with the company’s average cost of debt.
The German federal government had issued a partial guarantee for the loan. German ambassador to South Africa Dr Horst Freitag commented that the German government was “deeply impressed” that Transnet was investing R50-billion to manufacture the 1 064 locomotives.
In March 2014, Transnet awarded a contract for the building of 1 064 diesel and electric locomotives to four global original-equipment manufacturers.
The company awarded China South Rail (CSR) Zhuzhou Electric Locomotive and Bombardier Transportation contracts to build 599 electric locomotives and; General Electric Technologies and China North Rail (CNR) Rolling Stock contracts to build 465 diesel locomotives.
All but 70 locomotives would be built at Transnet Engineering’s plants in Koedoespoort, Pretoria and Durban. “Germany supports South Africa’s strategy to increase the efficiency and capacity of its freight transport sector, aiming for a modal shift from road to rail.
This will reduce carbon dioxide emissions and make an important contribution to protecting the climate,” said Freitag. Earlier this month, Transnet concluded a R30-billion loan facility agreement with China Development Bank to fund the acquisition of 232 diesel and 359 electric locomotives being built in cooperation with CNR and CSR respectively.
Further, Transnet, in March, announced that it had secured separate funding agreements with the Export-Import Bank of the US and Export Development Canada, worth a collective R13-billion, to fund the acquisition of locomotives from General Electric and Bombardier Transportation.
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By Eric Mutei
At the end of a long day at work, the only thing you want to do is get home quickly. You’re exhausted from dealing with your boss, terrible colleagues or crazy clients. But traveling home is just another drawn out nightmare to endure, thanks to the woes of the transport sector. The only reliable and affordable means of transportation for a common city dweller in Addis Ababa is the state operated city buses. Apart from the long stretchy queues, these buses are overcrowded and groaning heavily under the weight of the city residents. Not to mention the endless traffic jams. This is the daily transit scenario in the streets of Addis Ababa.
The scene above was the common case of daily transit until the Addis Ababa Light Rail Transit (LRT) project launched in December 2011. The rail is a first in clean initiative in the horn of Africa to enhance public mobility. The light railway of Ethiopia is the first urban metro light rail scheme to be built in a sub-Saharan country outside of South Africa.
The Ethiopian Railways Corp. (ERC) began construction of the double track electrified light rail transit project in 2012. It stretches 23 kilometers covering the better part of the city, and is a welcome relief for the city residents. The light railway consists of two lines running for a total distance of 32km with underground and over ground sections, 39 stations, and two operators that are the Ethiopian Railways Corporation and Shenzhen Metro. The 41 three-section 70% low-floor light rail vehicles are designed to run in pairs at up to 70 km/h. All have tinted windows and rubber components specified to resist premature aging from the effects of strong sunlight at altitudes of 2400 m.
ERC intends to register the Addis Ababa Light Rail Transit project as a Clean Development Mechanism project. The rail project is one of the pillars of a green growth strategy in the transport chapter of Ethiopia’s Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE), to consolidate greenhouse gas emissions of the country at 2010 levels. The vision of this rail project was to see a modern railway infrastructure and service by an efficient railway company that supports Ethiopia’s endeavor in building a globally competitive economy that uses electricity and connects the country’s development centers and links with ports of neighboring countries.
The Climate-Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) strategy (PDF) lays down a plan for Ethiopia to develop a carbon neutral, green economy by 2025. According to the CRGE strategy report, under the BAU scenario, emissions from the transport sector will increase from 5 Mt CO2e in 2010 to 41 Mt CO2e in 2030. The development and implementation of a National Railway Network and the Light Rail Transit and supported projects (Transit Oriented Development) will result in significant GHG emission reductions of 9 Mt CO2e/year by 2030.
Building electrified railways lays the base for low carbon transport in Ethiopia and will assure clean transport tomorrow. Railroads can contribute towards severing Ethiopia’s economic growth from diesel fuelled trucks. Availability of reliable and clean transport is a precondition for Ethiopia’s development. Trains can make use of a domestic energy source, hydropower, and help fuel the economy in a green way. The clean character of the fuel without emission of greenhouse gasses and the durable economic structure without dependency on imported fuels is sustainable.
Years ago the air was cleaner, but with the drastic growth in population, more than 4 million, the number of 20 year or older vehicles and developmental projects, the air is polluted above the traffic gridlock. The light rail train as cleaner public transist gives a reprieve to the public, combined with the hope for more electric cars, it is expected to reduce the annual greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector to less than 9 tonnes by 2030. It is an environmentally friendly venture aimed at combating the ever growing pollution in the city. It is not only convenient, providing transport for over 15,000 people per one direction and 60,000 in all four directions, but affordable for the residents. It is a milestone in helping Ethiopia sustain its growing economy, as Ethiopia is one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
The Light Rail Train has brought glimmers of hope to the common man. At the very least, one can get home easily at the end of the day without the crazy hassle of looking for and struggling in transit. The commuting city residents can breathe easier using clean transit as they take part in building their nation.
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Ford is taking a joined-up approach to examining the issues of future individual mobility, assessing the benefits of active safety and fully autonomous driving systems and understanding how systems can work together for the greater good.
At the 2015 International CES where the company’s CEO Mark Fields gave a keynote address, rather than simply promoting its latest in-car technology, Fields talked about innovation with a higher purpose and detailed 25 different global mobility experiments the company is currently undertaking to understand what the transport ecosystem of tomorrow will look like.
“Even as we showcase connected cars and share our plans for autonomous vehicles, we are here at CES with a higher purpose,” said Ford President and CEO Mark Fields. “We are driving innovation in every part of our business to be both a product and mobility company — and, ultimately, to change the way the world moves just as our founder Henry Ford did 111 years ago.”
Under the unifying banner of Ford Smart Mobility, the experiments — eight in North America, nine in Europe and Africa, seven in Asia and one in South America — are attempting to understand four global mega-trends: exploding population growth; an expanding middle-class; air quality and public health concerns; and changing consumer priorities in terms of urban living and mobility.
“We see a world where vehicles talk to one another, drivers and vehicles communicate with the city infrastructure to relieve congestion, and people routinely share vehicles or multiple forms of transportation for their daily commute,” Fields said. “The experiments we’re undertaking today will lead to an all-new model of transportation and mobility within the next 10 years and beyond.”
In 11 of the experiments, Ford invited developers and innovators from around the world to try and solve a specific mobility problem; for example, identifying available parking spaces in city centres or the use of navigation systems to help people gain healthcare access in remote regions.
As for self-driving cars, Ford confirmed that it is taking the concept very seriously with the ultimate aim of bringing an autonomous car to market that is affordable: “Our priority is not in making marketing claims or being in a race for the first autonomous car on the road,” Fields said. “Our priority is in making the first Ford autonomous vehicle accessible to the masses and truly enhancing customers’ lives.
Ford has a fully autonomous research vehicle that is currently being put through testing which, according to the company’s chief technical officer and group vice president, Global Product Development, Raj Nair, builds on technologies already available on Ford’s latest cars, such as pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist and adaptive cruise control.
“We’re already manufacturing and selling semi-autonomous vehicles that use software and sensors to steer into both parallel and perpendicular parking spaces, adjust speed based on traffic flow or apply the brakes in an emergency,” Nair said. “There will be a Ford autonomous vehicle in the future, and we take putting one on the road very seriously.”
Image: Ford CEO Mark Fields. Credit: AFP-Relaxnews