Platform politics and Silicon Savannahs (PP&SS) 2.0: Mobility apps and fintech

EP-2021-MAC-05, Rike Sitas, African Centre for Cities and University of the Western Cape, Centre for Humanities Research, University of Cape Town, South Africa


  • Alexis Sebarenzi, University of Rwanda, Rwanda
  • Prince Guma, British Institute in Eastern Africa
  • Jack Ong’iro Odeo, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Department of Development Studies, Kenya
  • Liza Cirolia, University of Cape Town, African Centre for Cities, South Africa
  • Nancy Odendaal, University of Cape Town, School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics, South Africa
  • Andrea Pollio, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow, Polytechnic of Turin, Italia


In Africa, Cape Town, Kigali and Nairobi have been dubbed ‘Silicon Savannahs’, celebrated for their adoption of smart city programmes and projects. In the last two years, these cities have seen a huge increase in the use of motorcycles for delivery and micro-logistics. This has been enabled primarily by the proliferation of mobile phone based applications which allow for motorcycle riders to join platforms and connect with businesses and customers.

Despite very little research on this phenomenon, this growth (intensified by COVID-19) is having a dramatic effect on the mobility systems of cities, shaping how people access goods and services in real time. More research is needed to how the motorcycle/platform logistics nexus is developing and what some of the implications might be.

Our current research (PP&SS 1.0) begins to address this in the context of Kigali and Nairobi. In this proposal, we would like to build on this in several ways. First, we would like to include Cape Town to the study, undertaking the same methodological approach applied in Kigali and Nairobi. Second, in all three cities, we would like to take the research further, understanding how fintech is being integrated into mobility platforms.

Finally, we want to bring our research team together to amplify the voices of African scholars in public platforms on platform mobility, including through both presenting our work at the African Studies Association of Africa being hosted by the Institute for Humanities in Africa in April 2022, and writing academic and popular context for wider distribution. The research process, in keeping with the wider objectives of the African Centre for Cities and VREF, is designed to strengthen the network of next generation Africa-based researchers and scholars who are engaging in these pressing questions.

Also read this Blogpost from March 2020:
Platform Poitics and Silicon Savannahs: The Rise of On-Demand Logistics and Mobility in Kigali and Nairobi (pdf)