Having this week announced a US$1.85-million (approximately R25-million) investment from Liil Ventures and Goodwell Investments as part of its Series A funding round, Cape Town and London-based public transport data and tech firm WhereIsMyTransport is keeping Africa very much in its public transport digital mapping strategy.
The investment will give impetus to the company as it expands its digital mapping of formal and informal public transport networks into new emerging markets, including its first data collection projects in India and Latin America.
But the Africa market is also a priority.
Julian Hirst, MD of WhereIsMyTransport, says there are already half a dozen data collection projects in the pipeline for Africa in Q1, but the company could not yet specify exactly where these will be run.
"These are not yet confirmed, but we are widening our focus in Africa, continuing to look for the accelerated traction we're seeing in other high-value markets."
Hirst said that as is the case with all emerging markets, Africa's diverse regions have their own dynamics and differences.
However, there are more similarities than differences he said. "The macro similarities far outweigh the micro differences."
Data for more than 30 major cities in emerging markets is now available on the WhereIsMyTransport integrated mobility data platform – an open API for mobility data and commuter services.
Hirst explains that once the data is integrated in the platform, the next step in the process is to engage with relevant government organisations and mobility service providers to help them address high priority challenges with public transport and commuter services.
He referenced the minibus taxi networks in the Western Cape as an example. According to Hirst until the company helped digitally map this market segment, there was little or no information available on operations, which is a challenge not only for the government but also for commuters.
"This is a fundamental urban development issue in emerging markets, but you can't solve the problem if you cannot see the problem in the first place. We are building the definitive digital solution for sustainable urban mobility... the objective is to not only help governments move citizens around, but also to make it possible for citizens to move around safely, reliably and predictably."
He also acknowledged that the business model lends itself to support and leverage the development of smart cities in Africa.
Devin de Vries, co-founder and CEO at WhereIsMyTransport says "Liil is an investor experienced in our sector, and a loud advocate for our market-leading technology. Not only are we strategically aligned, Liil also brings significant go-to-market value in the Latin American market, and a complimentary portfolio including Cabify and What3Words."
"Poor mobility in emerging markets is a huge social issue that has been overlooked for years," adds Wim van der Beek, founder and managing partner at Goodwell Investments. "WhereIsMyTransport's data and technology has a direct and sustainable positive impact on the livelihood of hundreds of millions of excluded households in these markets. WhereIsMyTransport and its solutions are perfectly aligned with our investment strategy, and we are thrilled to continue to support the company and its mission for social change."