Johannesburg, 14 April 2020: The Covid-19 pandemic, has shown its relentless authority to disrupt lives and crush economies in a swift and savage craze exposing many of the flaws and limitations in global countries’ public and private sectors such as public transport and health care systems. Simply put, we are learning the hard way and our lifestyles are yet to become attuned to the control measures implemented to contain the disease. South Africa is no exception in broad lock down restrictions ordered by President Cyril Ramaphosa and has put a strain on the industries and households across the nation.

The public transport industry is being hit hard during the lockdown especially the taxi industry (which is the main form of transport for 69% of all SA households) being limited to 2/3 of their normal licenced passenger load, that’s not taking into consideration that the only passengers they are currently able to serve are those that form part of essential industries. But, as Joe Moyo the MD of Afri Ride also points out, there are other factors, besides the number of passengers, that could pose possible risks in terms of spreading the virus when using the taxi services in South Africa:

“You’re exposed when you’re standing in the queue and waiting for the taxi to be filled; you’re exposed when you get inside the taxi; and you’re heavily exposed when you are passing cash from passengers to the driver.”

Moyo, in a recent letter sent to the Dept. of Transport and the Dept. of Health, proposed the Afri Ride App as a means to help mitigate these and other risks that the transport and healthcare sectors are facing. Not only does the Afri Ride App allow passengers to pre-book their seats but they can also pre-arrange with the driver about the pick-up point and time so that neither the driver nor the passengers need to wait for lengths of time at taxi nodes such as taxi ranks, and payments are made cashless. The benefits of implementing the Afri Ride App into the taxi service industry and partnering with the Dept. of Health won’t just restore the public’s faith in the use of taxis but also help the SA Government track and contain the current and possible future outbreaks of the virus as well:

“Even after the pandemic is gone, there’s going to be one big element that is going to follow us and define how people are going to live and that is traceability. Traceability in terms of the current epidemic that we’re facing in the world. Traceability in terms of any other future events that will unfold; be it crime, be it another epidemic, as we’ve been warned that there will be many to follow, be it for any other social or security reason. And for that, you need to implement aggressive contact tracing systems.

“Moyo answers the question ‘How do we trace the people and to make it relevant to the current situation, how do we control the spread of the virus among public transport users?”: “if, for instance a passenger in a taxi later tests positive for Covid-19 and exposes the other passengers to the virus, it is easy for Afri Ride to trace and notify the driver as well as the fellow passengers who had booked their seats using the app, it is also easy to verify the date and time a virus carrier was in specific areas such as the pickup location (usually a taxi rank) and drop off location, this then allows the public officials to notify individuals who were present in those areas of the potential exposure to the virus- this assists in the carrying out of the precautionary measures”.

Moyo explains that by first approaching the government departments with their solution they hope to get government support and approval before they approach the Taxi Associations with their proposal. “Afri Ride will forego the admin fees during the current crisis for any public transport services that would like to implement the app in their business models and services in order to play our part in flattening the graph”.

When asked whether Afri Ride will be adding additional regulations or requirements for drivers and passengers to adhere to, to help further mitigate any risks of spreading the virus, Moyo replied that they require their drivers to follow the guidelines as provided by the Dept. of Transport in conjunction with the Dept. of Health and all the other stakeholders.

To conclude, Moyo predicts that the future of public transport will forever be changed based on the harsh lessons learnt from the current pandemic and the sooner the industry learns to adapt and innovate, the faster the industry will be able to recover from its current losses while providing passengers with even better service quality, and drivers with safer working conditions. The best part is that it’s already achievable with the use of the Afri Ride App.

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