Fintech and the platformed motorcycle: speculating on ordinary mobility economies in urban Africa

Despite the economic challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, venture capital (VC) investments in African startups have remained resilient, surpassing $5 billion in 2021 and experiencing a staggering 264% growth compared to the previous year. Notably, more than 60% of these investments were directed towards fintech companies.

The surge in fintech investments in Africa is driven by several factors that make the continent an attractive market. Africa still has a large unbanked population, presenting an opportunity for financial services that offer alternatives to traditional banking methods. The rise of mobile money and cryptocurrencies has brought accessible financial solutions to individuals and informal businesses without access to traditional banking systems. Furthermore, Africa has emerged as a significant market for cryptocurrency trading, providing alternative options in volatile monetary climates and facilitating cross-border transactions.

The report draws on empirical research in three case-study cities – Cape Town (South Africa), Kigali (Rwanda), and Nairobi (Kenya) – to showcase some important trends at the interface of fintech and the platformisation of motorcycle economies in urban Africa.

It builds on the insight that fintech is not ‘just’ facilitated by digital platforms, but it deploys the same business logics of intermediation and, in doing so, is often part of platformisation itself (Langley and Leyshon, 2021). More specifically, the report shows the importance of the financial-inclusion thrust in linking fintech to two-wheel paratransit, as well as the multiple ways in which digital platforms create new financial pathways in rapport to the physical commodity of the motorcycle; the crucial importance of payment gateways as infrastructures of additional data-driven financial innovation; the promises of risk-management through data and the pilot-based experimental practices through which these promises are given effect; and linkages to the decarbonisation of mobility systems in African cities.

For each of these points, the report highlights key policy implications that will require careful attention by researchers, regulators, and private actors in the field.