Smart cities in Africa: Meet Ofentse Mokwena, Strategic Project Lead at Uber sub-Saharan Africa

Written by Editor

31/03/2022

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‘The future is now’ is an oft-repeated phrase but Ofentse Mokwena has a spin on it that reflects the focused, forward thinking nature of his work at Uber sub-Saharan Africa: “The Future of Work is now.” A speaker at the upcoming Africa Tech Week conference, Mokwena has a background in both business and academia, lecturing, researching, publishing papers and adding his expertise in transport economics to the industry.

In the latest Business Unusual Podcast we engage in conversation with Uber sub-Saharan Africa’s Strategic Project Lead, Ofentse Mokwena about building smart cities in Africa and the challenges faced by the infrastructure sector. Ofentse tells us about the journey from seeing the township transport system, to now imagining what the future of work looks like, and envisioning the infrastructure needed to support it.

 

Key takeaways to listen out for in this podcast:

  • The future of work is already here
  • When it comes to the future of work we need to be asking ourselves what are the mechanisms to, one, make it fair; and two, make it an opportunity to unlock unseen potential
  • Below the surface of traditional infrastructure is the software which makes it work
  • We need to be asking how infrastructure impacts communities 
  • Infrastructure isn’t just one piece – it has many aspects, which are affected by time
  • Not all startups are the same. Some are looking to provide a product or service over time to build their resume. Others are doing things like pedestrianising streets for a weekend
  • Stakeholders need to complement each other to avoid disconnects from how the community uses the infrastructure
  • The key to empowering communities doesn’t lie just investing. The ecosystem needs to be taken into consideration
  • Smart cities will require “places that are really attuned with the data associated with the environment that they manage.”
  • When it comes to data, are we using it to make decisions or are we using it to make informed decisions
  • Technology is moving faster than our understanding of the consequences, positive or negative, but we will catch up
  • It’s not just about smart cities, it’s about a smart ecosystem, which extends to the rural areas and could unlock potential across Africa.

 

Ofentse Mokwena is the Strategic Project Lead at Uber sub-Saharan Africa and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Cape Town. Ofentse holds MPhil in Transport studies and is the founder of Hlulani.com, where he blogs about “mobility and access and much of the things in between” as well as a podcast called Just Transport. His work at Uber SSA focuses on initiatives around the Future of Work ecosystem.

 

Hear more from Ofentse at Africa Tech Week

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