Platform politics and Silicon Savannahs: How new digital technologies shape mobility governance in African cities

University of Cape Town, African Centre for Cities and University of the Western Cape, Centre for Humanities Research, South Africa

EP-2020-MAC-02, Rike Sitas, University of Cape Town, African Centre for Cities and University of the Western Cape, Centre for Humanities Research


  • 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
  • Aylin Schulz van Endert, UNDP Strategic Innovation Unit
  • Anirudh Rajashekar, Jerry-can+
  • Alexis Sebarenzi, University of Rwanda, Rwanda
  • Prince Guma, British Institute in Eastern Africa


While technological innovation is often associated with cities like San Francisco or Bangalore, several African cities are experiencing an agglomeration of ICT related companies. Both Kigali and Nairobi have been dubbed ‘Silicon Savannahs’, celebrated for their adoption of smart city programmes and projects. In these two cities, this research explores the impact of new digital platforms on the governance of urban mobility. Like in most African cities, the mobility sectors in Kigali and Nairobi are dominated by ‘paratransit’, in particular motorcycle taxis and minibuses. There is considerable potential for new digital innovations to dramatically alter the operations of these distributed and dynamic sectors, creating more integrated, accountable and demand driven services delivery systems. This processes is already underway, however, little research has been undertaken on the governance implications of these platforms. This is vital as these new initiatives are being overlaid on existing political and institutional arrangements, shifting power dynamics and introducing new actors (for example financial investors, app designers and the like).

By mapping out both the existing governance arrangements and identifying key changes being driven by new platforms, this research aims to fill this void and contribute to wider debates on the governance of urban mobility and digital infrastructures in African cities. The research process, in keeping with the wider objectives of the African Centre for Cities and VREF, is designed to strengthen the network of Africa-based researchers and scholars who are engaging in these pressing questions.