This is an interesting point. In places like China, for example, the growth in automobiles has been explosive, and I don’t think India and Africa are too far behind.

That said, I think the evolution of the car will follow similar trajectories to the mobile phone and renewable energy in these places. Without the legacy systems of OECD countries, developing countries are able to leapfrog, and take advantage of the lowest costs that new technologies afford. Mobile penetration rates in many developing countries for example, is fast approaching rich country levels, so I don’t think it’s going to be a problem of less access. We’ve also seen that if something is of value to people (data, voice) then they buy it, doesn’t matter whether they are rich or poor. All that matters is that it is of use.

So I don’t think they’ll lag behind — they will be able to leapfrog fairly quickly into mobility as a service. If a car trip costs the same amount as a cup of coffee, then it’s going to be cheaper and more convenient no matter where you are — Hong Kong, Nairobi or Buenos Aires. Of course, I imagine it will look very different in all of those places (autonomous tuk tuks anyone?) but I think the sheer convenience of it will make it ubiquitous. Will it take longer to come to Kenya than it does to the United States? Of course… but the timelines will be measured in a few years, not decades.

From Melbourne and Cape Town, with love. Political economist and journalist, and co-founder of

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