Lessons for Africa from PIE 2023


Lessons for Africa from PIE 2023

Africa faces serious challenges in its drive to fully embrace smart parking systems.The 2023 Parking Industry Expo (PIE) was a good forum for parking professionals from the continent to learn how the industry is shaping up elsewhere, especially in North America and Europe.

PIE 2023, just like previous ones, may have been targeted at U.S. parkers and audiences, but many of this year’s seminars and presentations provided numerous lessons for the parking industry in Africa, despite the continent having no representation at this annual event.

The most interesting part, at least for me, and which could be a lesson for practitioners in Africa’s parking industry, include examples on unintended unethical behaviors.

A casual look at the U.S. or European parking markets, alongside that of Africa, would show huge disparities in the manner they are structured and managed. An even closer analysis would bring out the fact that there are areas these markets are similar such as in payments, technology uptake, security, leadership, and enforcement.

Core constraints holding back growth of Africa’s parking industry including inadequate infrastructure, the high cost of deploying modern parking technology and lack of consumer awareness, points to the need for Africa’s parking service providers and users to participate in future PIE Shows and other similar events to understand how and why advanced parking markets are where they are today.


The EV Market

Some of the lessons for Africa from PIE 2023 include the latest happenings in EV charging market especially in the U.S. and Europe.

Africa’s EV charging market is small, with no reliable data available yet. Mr. Dale Denda’s presentation on how the EV charging is affecting the parking industry, and the constraints such as where to locate charging stations would have been food for thought for parking professionals from countries such as Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria, and South Africa where EV charging is picking.

And for Africa’s case, it calls for leadership, ethical leadership to be precise, to tackle challenges pinning down growth of EV charging market, as well as to effectively confront the neverending menace of inefficient use of available road space, illegal on-street parking, the lack of convenient public transport systems, and cheap parking fees levied in some cities.


Ethical Leadership

At PIE 2023, Cindy Campbell, Senior Training and Development Specialist at the International Parking & Mobility Institute laid bare what ethical leadership entails, including doing what is right.

Ethical leaders, she said, are fair and just, show respect by valuing contribution of others, honest regardless of the impact on one’s popularity, treat others on the team humanely, and foster a sense of community or teambuilding, encourage initiative. They lead by example, have ability to communicate or discuss organizational values, and areintolerant of unethical behaviour.

The most interesting part, at least for me, and which could be a lesson for practitioners in Africa’s parking industry, include examples on unintended unethical behaviors.

They include a ‘new trainee learning job duties from someone cutting corners’, ‘work-arounds’, ‘asking for forgiveness vs. asking for permission’, ‘what they don’t know won’t hurt them’, ‘I don’t have time to ask’, ‘just this once’, ‘no one ever notices’.

The presentation got even better when the attendees were asked to discuss unique dilemmas such as  ‘telling an insecure subordinate or co-worker their work is good when it is not’, ‘Voicing support for a decision you don’t believe in because everyone else is in favor of it and there is no more time for discussion’, ‘Ignoring a subordinate’s chronic tardiness because they have a troublesome homelife and you figure they’ve got enough to deal with’.

None knows better the pitfalls of unethical leadership than seniors in the parking industry. They, too, had their own ‘curious case of grumpy and grumpier’ session where they relived their experiences, including the best and most hilarious learning episodes in their journeys to mastering the dos and don’ts in parking.

The seniors, who were not necessarily bad tempered or irritable during the session, may not have started with digitization during their initial years in the industry but they appreciate the role of technology in management of parking, an industry that has been swarmed with innovative and successful startups.


Finding Opportunity

During the ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ presentation, the confident panelists explained how, with relatively new but revolutionary parking ideas, launched their startups. They caught the eye of parkers in a business where the old guard are keen on protecting their territory. This, however, did not just happen, they said. With a bit of luck and intuition, they identified a weak link in the parking industry and jumped at the opportunity to provide a solution to the satisfaction of parkers.

In countries such as South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria and Ethiopia, the concept of ticket-less and gate-less parking has gained traction and the seminar on the ‘Rear Window’, offered useful lessons that these emerging parking markets could utilize.

Fortunately, one of the PIE 2023 exhibitors, Hub Parking Technology, has a long-time partner, NTF, a company that previously won tender for the installation of a system with backwards compatibility with the existing parking devices at ORN Ahmed Ben Bella International Airport, Algeria. The system has ability to connect with Hub Technology’s JMS management software, Jupiter, that allows a parking services provider to manage multiple parking locations and different types of HUB equipment with just one tool.


Discussing Payment Options

Vital lessons also emerged from the ‘Moneyball’ presentation that explored some of the parking payment options capable of sealing revenue leaks while remaining friendly to motorists and how technology can support the integration of these options for the benefit of parkers.

Whereas in many African cities, payment is still via cash, there is a deliberate drive by authorities of these cities to encourage of mobile apps, and introduce and insist on universal digital payments such as mobile payments, Europay, Mastercard, and Visa (EMV) contact and contact-less, PIN debit, MyMSD, magnetic stripe (magstripe). 

Well, payments thrive on trust and the ability to pay, but parking services can be severely affected by myths, a phenomenon that is global.

Although mythology, be it Greek or Roman, is a course in many universities, the misinformation of parking myths is possibly the industry’s biggest undoing. 

“Just build more parking!”, “Paid parking will hurt local businesses!” “People will stop visiting downtown if they need to pay!”…are just  of those mythsa few highlighted at PIE 2023.

However, it is not a myth that some universities in the U.S. and elsewhere in Europe have successfully monetized their parking lots, unlike in Africa where parking facilities in higher institutions of learning are largely free.

The ‘Blind Side’ seminar, with panelists from some top universities in the U.S., shared with PIE 2023 attendees their stories about parking and transportation on their institutions, a stark contrast with their counterparts in Africa.

Each of the sponsors, exhibitors, attendees and speakers at PIE 2023 may have their take on the event, but as for me, what stood out, apart from the knowledge gained from various speakers, was the speed networking session and the ‘lighting up the night’ event that makes every participant look forward to the next PIE. 

Shem Oirere is Parking Today’s on the ground reporter in Africa. He can be reached at shem@shemoirere.com.


Article contributed by:
Shem Oirere
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