Future of Urban Mobility in Emerging Markets

urban mobility
Vincent van Gogh: Bridges Across the Seine at Asnieres,1887 // Public Domain

By 2050, two-thirds of the people worldwide will live in cities. This development comes with huge challenges for emerging and developing countries, especially in the area of mobility. A new study “Emerging Urban Mobility” by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation shows how these countries deal with these challenges.

Our world is becoming more and more urban. Today, 55 percent of humanity already lives in cities, and by 2050 this proportion is expected to rise to more than two-thirds. While urbanization has largely been completed in industrialized nations, it continues to gain momentum in many emerging and developing countries and poses major challenges for the metropolises there. This is particularly true for the transport infrastructure, which is overloaded in many places. The consequences are devastating: traffic jams, bad air, and many traffic accidents.

For industrialized nations, problems and possible solutions in the area of urban mobility have been well-researched. However, there is only an incomplete picture of emerging markets. With the study “Emerging Urban Mobility” by Fraunhofer IAO, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom aims to contribute to closing this gap. The study includes representative user surveys in three selected focus countries (Indonesia, Morocco, and Mexico) and a selection of mobility solutions that show which measures have proven to be effective or are particularly hopeful.

Main Results of the Survey

Three main findings emerge from the representative survey of the urban population in Indonesia, Morocco, and Mexico:

  1. In all three countries, the urban population will continue to attach great importance to cars in the future. In Morocco and Mexico, the car is seen as a means of transport with the highest future potential, whereas in Indonesia, the car comes in second place in the survey.
  2. In all three countries, people look at the future with great confidence and the majority assume that the mobility situation in the future will meet their expectations (Indonesia 79%, Morocco 62%, Mexico 55%).
  3. In all three countries, urban mobility solutions should first and foremost be “safe”. This makes it clear that the lack of road safety and the high risk of accidents in the three focus countries are unanimously perceived as the core problem of urban mobility.

International Best Practice Solutions

The best practice solutions make it clear how diverse the urban mobility challenges are in emerging countries but also show a great willingness to address the problems through innovation. Of course, solutions cannot be transferred one-to-one between industrialized nations and emerging countries. The challenges and requirements are too different for that.

Nevertheless, there is a lot to learn from each other. The world’s largest bus rapid transit system, with a length of 200 kilometers, has been established in Jakarta. In Caracas, a cable car project was successfully integrated into an already densely populated area. To solve its urban traffic problems, Malaysia is relying on anonymized traffic data to analyze traffic peaks and travel times. Johannesburg uses artificial intelligence to recognize traffic patterns and control traffic more intelligently. For several years now, Mexico City has placed particular emphasis on mobility planning that is intended for the better protection of women.


From the perspective of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, the study’s conclusion is clear: advancing urbanization poses particular challenges for urban mobility in emerging countries. The representative survey in Indonesia, Morocco, and Mexico impressively shows that people remain confident despite all the problems. It is also clear that people do not see a future without their car. The results show that there could be a significant demand for alternative fuels in these countries on the path to climate-friendly mobility.

On the other hand, concerning climate protection goals, it is clear that, especially in cities, ways must be found to combine climate protection and individual transport and to use effective mass transport systems as a real alternative. To solve the traffic problems in cities around the world, a fair amount of willingness to innovate is required. The best practice examples in the study make it clear that a wide range of innovations are already being used in emerging markets. There is therefore a need for an exchange on equal terms between industrialized nations and emerging countries so that cities around the world can learn from each other and get their mobility problems under control.

Link to publication: https://shop.freiheit.org/#!/Publikation/1535

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