Business Opportunity: Nissan Improves Transport For The Disabled In Africa
South Africa, population 53 million, is heavily dependent on taxis. About 15 million commuters use taxis daily according to the South African National Taxi Council, but the country’s disabled have been largely excluded from that mode of transport.
Many of the country’s disabled — 7.5 percent of the total population — have been unable to access taxis because this mode of transport cannot accommodate wheelchairs. This means the wheelchair-bound are excluded from employment, educational opportunities, and participating in the economy, BizCommunity reported.
Auto maker Nissan saw a business opportunity and claims to be the first manufacturer in South Africa to offer wheelchair friendly vehicles to the taxi industry.
The company has converted its NV350 Impendulo to include a hydraulic lift, rear-facing seats and aluminium floors which help keep wheelchairs in place. The converted Impendulo, released in August, is being used in regional health departments in the Western Cape.
“There is a definite need for more public transport facilities that cater for people living with physical disabilities,” said Wonga Mesatywa, director of corporate and general affairs at Nissan Group of Africa.
In Africa, an estimated 60-to-80 million people have disabilities, according to Disabled World.
Disabled people are estimated at 10 percent of the general African population, but as high as 20 percent in poorer regions.
Most Africans with disabilities are excluded from school and work, virtually guaranteeing that they will live in poverty. School enrollment is estimated at 5-to-10 percent. For many, begging becomes a sole means of survival, Disabled World reported.
The South African Constitution enshrines equality for people with disabilities. In 2007 the country signed and ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and “has committed itself to removing all barriers faced by persons with disabilities,” but has not lived up to this, Disabled World reported.
South Africa has made positive progress towards improving transport for the disabled but there’s a need to shift the focus from urban areas to developing rural areas, according to a Tshwane University of Technology report.
Transport for the disabled in Africa
The Nissan converted vans have hydraulic lifts that allow people in wheelchairs to have easy access through the rear door. In addition to transporting the physically disabled, the van conversion has applications for hotel fleets, inter-hospital transportation and frail care, Nissan said, according to Biz Community.
As a developing country, South Africa’s position on disabled people in society has traditionally been one of exclusion, said Nissan’s Mesatywa.
The South African Disability Alliance is made up of the 12 South African organizations that are the voice for disability in South Africa, Disabled World reported. People with disabilities have potential to take part in the development of their countries. Some with disabilities in Africa are taking control of their future. “Africa will be leading the world in numbers of disabled entrepreneurs,” Disabled World reported, according to the U.N. African Disability Alliance.
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