Updated: Jun 29
Unlocking the Continent's Potential
Fig 1.0: Change is underway in Africa
Africa, a continent rich in diversity and untapped potential, has become a hub for groundbreaking research and innovation in various sectors, including mobility. As technology continues to shape our world, artificial intelligence (AI) research in Africa is playing a pivotal role in revolutionizing transportation, improving road safety, optimizing logistics, and enhancing overall mobility across the continent. With a unique set of challenges and opportunities, the continent has the opportunity to leverage AI to pave the way for a more connected, efficient, and sustainable future.
Addressing Urban Mobility Challenges
Urbanization is rapidly transforming Africa, with its cities experiencing significant population growth. This urban shift poses numerous challenges to mobility, such as traffic congestion, inadequate public transportation, and road safety concerns. However, AI research is providing novel solutions to tackle these problems head-on.
AI-powered traffic management systems are being developed to optimize traffic flow, reduce congestion, and improve overall transportation efficiency. These systems leverage real-time data, collected through various sensors and smart devices, to analyze traffic patterns and suggest alternative routes to alleviate congestion. Additionally, machine learning algorithms are utilized to predict traffic conditions, enabling commuters to plan their journeys more effectively.
This investment will contribute to the improvement of people’s well-being in Kenya, especially through the reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that contribute to pollution in Kenya. Dennis Wakaba, Roam Motors’ project coordinator, suggested that the manufacture of green buses will also create new jobs in the transport sector regionally. “Roam Rapid offers a solution for the growing number of cities implementing Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems across Africa and is the first of its kind in Kenya. The bus is designed not only to increase comfort, but also reduce operating costs and improve air quality,” explains Dennis Wakaba
Fig 2.0 Swedish-Kenyan mobility start-up Roam
Enhancing Public Transportation
Efficient and reliable public transportation is vital for the economic development and social well-being of any region. In Africa, before AI can play a critical and transformative role in enhancing transportation efficiency, we need to address the energy crisis and looming economic challenges. This is where startups like Roam are bridging innovation by electrifying mobility.
Roam is an inclusive, modern, and sustainable solution”. This is how the Swedish-Kenyan mobility start-up Roam Motors (formerly Opibus) describes its new electric bus called “Roam Rapid”. The vehicle, assembled in the city of Nairobi, will have a range of 360 kilometers and a top speed of 70 km/h thanks to a 384 kWh battery, according to the company co-founded by Filip Lövström and Mikael Gånge.
AI can be employed to optimize bus routes, taking into account factors like passenger demand, road conditions, and time of day. This optimization leads to more efficient bus schedules, reduced waiting times, and improved service reliability. AI-powered ticketing systems and mobile applications are also being developed to enhance the passenger experience, allowing commuters to access real-time information, make cashless payments, and provide feedback on their journeys.
Advancing Logistics and Supply Chain Management
Africa's vast geography, diverse climates, and intricate supply chains present unique challenges in logistics and supply chain management.
Using AI algorithms, logistics companies can analyze large datasets, including weather patterns, traffic conditions, and historical delivery data, to make accurate predictions and improve their operations. This allows for better route planning, load optimization, and efficient inventory management. Moreover, computer vision-optimized drones and autonomous vehicles are being explored as potential solutions for last-mile delivery, especially in remote or underserved areas.
A Nigerian-based medical logistics startup, LifeBank will be adding drone delivery to its methods of transportation (Skybank). The company is the first African-led company to implement Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS) flights for healthcare logistics.
Car ploughs into roadway damaged during April floods, Durban, South Africa
Promoting Road Safety
Road accidents continue to be a major concern in Africa, with human error being a significant contributing factor. AI research can play a critical role in promoting road safety by developing advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) and intelligent traffic monitoring systems.
ADAS, powered by AI and computer vision technologies, can detect potential hazards, provide warnings to drivers, and even take corrective actions to prevent accidents. These systems use cameras, sensors, and machine learning algorithms to analyze the road environment in real time and assist drivers in making safer decisions. AI-driven traffic monitoring systems enable authorities to identify and respond to traffic violations promptly, reducing the incidence of reckless driving and enhancing overall road safety.
By leveraging the power of artificial intelligence, African nations are addressing urban mobility challenges, enhancing public transportation, advancing logistics and supply chain management, and promoting road safety. These innovations have the potential to revolutionize the way people and goods move in Africa, opening doors to economic growth, social development, and a sustainable future. With continued investment in AI research and collaboration between academia, industry, and governments, Africa is poised to become a global leader in leveraging AI for mobility.
Here are some specific use case examples of AI research in African countries:
Nairobi, Kenya - Traffic Management: Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, faces significant traffic congestion issues. AI research is being utilized to develop smart traffic management systems that leverage data from GPS devices, traffic cameras, and mobile applications.
Lagos, Nigeria - Public Transportation Optimization: Lagos, one of Africa's most populous cities, struggles with inefficient public transportation systems. AI research is being employed to optimize bus routes, schedules, and passenger demand. By analyzing historical data, traffic patterns, and population density, AI algorithms can create efficient bus schedules, reduce waiting times, and enhance the overall reliability and accessibility of public transportation in Lagos.
Cape Town, South Africa - Logistics and Supply Chain Management: Cape Town, known for its busy port and diverse industries, faces logistical challenges due to its geography and complex supply chains. AI research is being used to optimize logistics operations, including route planning, load optimization, and real-time monitoring of goods. By leveraging AI algorithms and predictive analytics, logistics companies in Cape Town can improve efficiency, reduce costs, and ensure the timely delivery of goods.
Kigali, Rwanda - Autonomous Vehicles for Last-Mile Delivery: Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda, is embracing the use of autonomous vehicles for last-mile delivery. AI research is focused on developing autonomous delivery drones and vehicles that can navigate the city's roads and deliver goods to customers efficiently. These autonomous systems use AI algorithms, sensors, and computer vision to safely maneuver through traffic, reducing delivery times and improving accessibility, especially in hard-to-reach areas.
Accra, Ghana - Road Safety: Accra, the capital city of Ghana, faces road safety challenges with high accident rates. AI research is being applied to improve road safety through the development of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). These systems use AI algorithms and sensors to monitor the road environment, detect potential hazards, and provide real-time warnings to drivers. By implementing ADAS, Accra aims to reduce accidents caused by human error and promote safer driving practices.