In any market, whenever demand exceeds supply, there is disequilibrium. This is the case for the transport industry in some cities in Nigeria. Equilibrium, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary is defined as a state of balance between two opposing forces or actions. From the above definition, we can conclude that disequilibrium is a state of imbalance, a state that is divergent from the norms, or a state of abnormal. This abnormality is in favour of the transport workers against the commuters.
In a city where commuting is a good part of peoples daily lives, the negative effect of this abnormality cannot be overlooked.
It is Sunday 10th of January 2020 and the end of my first week as an IFA Fellow. IFA, Innovate for Africa; is a program that inspires and trains aspiring African entrepreneurs and then provides them with the opportunity to work with a startup. IFA's vision is for development in Africa to be powered by innovation, and they create, grow, and sustain innovation by investing in people. Among the goals of IFA is to strengthen the innovation ecosystem by empowering students with the right skills, confidence, and a supportive network and connecting them with start-ups.
IFA fellowship starts with an immersive one-month training, where fellows are trained on selected Hard Skills, Personal Branding, and Design Thinking. Design Thinking is a field that focuses on understanding users, their challenges, and providing a solution-based approach to solving those challenges. It blends what is desirable from a user’s viewpoint to what is technically feasible and economically viable to devise a solution that is useful and profitable.
To implement what we learnt from the design thinking sessions, my team deliberated on challenges facing users of public transport in densely populated parts of the country. These challenges range from inconveniences, discomfort, to mention but a few.
Source: Design thinking bootleg: Hasso Plattner Institute of Design Standford.
Following the steps in the design thinking process, we started conducting a PMR (Primary Market Research), to understand the problems from a user perspective and eliminate assumptions. We talked to students, employees and market women about how they go about their commuting, how effective it was, the challenges they face and some of them shared their hack to get over those challenges.
My interviews were mainly through calls and I interviewed a total of three people. I started by talking about transportation and how it is different in various states and the under-appreciated role it plays in daily life. I asked them about their activities, what set of activities requires the use of transport, how often they use public transport, how effective it was, and alternatives they could consider. We talked about the downside of public transport, how it affects them, and what they feel should be done about it.
From the interviews, I gathered that most of the problems faced when using public transport were understandable and would be reduced or eliminated if there was no traffic congestion. One of my interviewees talked about how he wakes up very early so as to get to work before the “rush hour” traffic and sometimes stay at work until late in the night to avoid the evening rush hour traffic. He spoke about tax collectors, bad roads and policemen who collectively contribute to frustrate transport workers. He further explained how some of those transport workers transfer their aggression on commuters. On occasional price hikes, one of my interviewees was confident that there is nothing that can be done. He painted a scenario where a driver uses more than the time he would normally use for two trips on a single trip because of congestion, and the following day such a driver might not be able to work because his vehicle got damaged by the bad road.
One of my interviewees believes that the only solution to this is to get a private vehicle, but talking about traffic congestion and bad roads, private vehicles are equally affected. While some believe there is no solution to these problems, I personally think I have to consult the next steps of the design thinking process to determine that.