With hard lockdown over in South Africa, the wheels are slowly beginning to turn once more…and the wheels of the minibus taxi industry are gaining momentum. This indispensable means of transport is absolutely critical to keeping our economy going, transporting over 70% of our national workforce daily whilst ferrying schoolchildren to destinations across the country.
With the economy hanging by a thread, and businesses doing all they can to ensure that they stay open and productive, it’s imperative that the people who power these companies – the commuters who rely on our taxis – are safe and secure. And the only way to do this is to make these vehicles, and their drivers and passengers, Covid-compliant.
In line with the international emphasis on protecting commuters when they are at their most vulnerable, SDI Force recently initiated the Adopt-a-Safe-Passage to Work / School campaign, partnering with Bridge Taxi Finance and FNB to implement stringent but yet practical measures that aim to decrease the risk of infection in taxis by up to 80%. Providing this safe passage involves an intricate process that comprises of thorough checks, custom-made equipment, changes to behaviour and the clear distribution of important information.
These measures include full sanitization of taxis, a barrier between drivers and commuters, hand sanitising stations on entry and exit and the installation of ventilation spacers on windows. With the latest research in place, the most important issue is keeping the windows open and making sure there is airflow as research suggests, this can dramatically change the infection rate for our South African commuters.
Commuters and drivers will also be informed at various points on the necessary changes needed in behaviour. Awareness literature and stickers inside taxis will detail how money should change hands before departure, and entrench the need for social distancing. All taxis will enforce a ‘no masks no ride’ policy. So far 5,000 school taxis and 1,000 commuter taxis have been fitted out, but there’s an urgent need to transform the entire industry nationwide, and to ensure the ongoing safety of every passenger.
Whilst all taxi users should be protected, the key focus of Adopt-a-Safe-Passage is ensuring a safe journey for work commuters. Taxis transport an average of 150 different people every day – 3,000 per month – and given the highly infectious nature of the coronavirus, this makes them breeding grounds for transmission. Taxis are now only allowed to carry 70% of their normal passenger capacity to create an environment for better social distancing. This is at a financial cost to the taxi drivers, and they need all the support they can get.
“The taxi industry is the connecting force for a huge part of our population, and we are compelled to ensure that these commuters are as protected and secure as possible,” says Brad Fisher, SDI Force Co-Founder. “SDI Force collaborated with leading authorities in public health, communicable disease specialists, risk compliance experts, occupational health practitioners and even production engineers who assisted us with the taxi modification equipment. The City of Johannesburg also played a crucial, supportive role on the ground, and we are incredibly grateful for the overwhelming support.”
SDI Force was formed when the Supplier Development Initiative (SDI), an existing uberised platform made up of multiple micro-suppliers, was repurposed to function as a non-profit, emergency relief programme during this national crisis. “With SDI Force, we have two objectives,” explains Andile Ramaphosa, SDI Force Co-Founder.
“Firstly, we want to help mitigate the effects of the virus, and secondly we want to ensure job security for this incredibly hard working group of suppliers.” So far SDI Force has made a huge impact, delivering 9,000 food packs – amounting to 450 individual meals – to micro-traders that would have otherwise fallen through the cracks. The organisation has also trained up waste pickers, up-skilling the WastePreneurs to become ‘Covid-busters’ that have sprayed public spaces like taxi ranks, commercial enterprises, waste collection depots and even the mayor’s offices.
Adopt-a-Safe-Passage is one of the many initiatives that sits under #ReviveZA, a call for businesses and every South African to become partners in South Africa’s recovery.
This campaign is powered by SDI, and leverages off the incredible connection that the organisation has built up with the micro businesses that keep our communities alive. Harnessing the powers of its partners, FNB, Bolt, Uber, Loadit and SweepSouth, #ReviveZA is playing an active role in rebuilding our economy from the ground up by helping micro-suppliers form partnerships with economically powerful businesses. It’s an approach that offers hope to tens of thousands of small entities, helping them to put food on the table, contribute to their communities and, ultimately, get our economy back up and going.
Adopt-a-Safe-Passage is endorsed by the City of Johannesburg, the Department of Transport, the Department of Education, and the
Gauteng Province, and has been bolstered by the support of Bridge Taxi Finance and FNB, who have together contributed R6 million to the initiative. This money has being used for the hard costs needed to make 7,000 Gauteng taxis Covid-compliant and safer. In addition to its commitment to Adopt-a-Safe-Passage, Bridge Taxi Finance recently provided a R175 million co-payment contribution to the taxi industry through a number of different financial relief measures.
“If we cannot assist our taxis during these difficult times, then South Africa will have a hard time recovering,” says Vincent Raseroka, Chairman of Bridge Taxi Finance. “Adopt-a-Safe-Passage forms an essential and important part of Bridge Taxi Finance’s ongoing strategy, and we’re hoping that this initiative becomes a catalyst for more meaningful assistance for taxi operators across our country.”
FNB has been a supporter of SDI Force from the outset, and believes that initiatives like Adopt-a-Safe-Passage are crucial to assisting a wide range of our South African citizens. “We believe that protecting our nation requires us to help create safe and secure environments,” explains Heather Lowe, Head of SME Development at FNB Business. “But we also need to protect livelihoods, and Adopt-a-Safe-Passage will help achieve this both by making it safer for people to get where they need to, and by helping these incredible micro-suppliers remain meaningfully employed.”
As much as Bridge Taxi Finance and FNB have made this initiative possible in Gauteng, there is an urgent need to expand this campaign across the country. Corporates are encouraged to get involved with Adopt-a-Safe-Passage and assist SDI Force in rolling it out nationwide.
Not only do businesses receive their Enterprise Supplier Development and BBEEE points, their assistance in getting their staff safely to work is paramount to our country’s stability. All South Africans are connected to the taxi industry. Whether it’s domestic workers or office staff, teachers or security guards, these individuals play a big part in our lives, and it’s imperative that they are protected and assured a safe
Interventions like SDI’s Adopt-a-Safe-Passage to Work / School could seriously assist in controlling the spread of coronavirus, whilst keeping our youth at school and the hard-working members of our society employed and healthy. This approach is of utmost importance to ensure that we keep the economy open, as a further spike in the infection rate and a shutdown to level 4 or 5 simply cannot be afforded.
South Africans from across the board must all pull together to prevent this. We need to keep South Africa Open for Business, going back to
Level 5 is not an option.