Santaco launches taxi vision for 2020

The South African National Taxi Association Council (Santaco) on Tuesday celebrated the launch of its TR3 2020 strategy, aimed towards becoming a self-sustaining industry and a public transport leader. Santaco president Jabulani Mthembu said that the taxi industry was set on transforming the R25-billion business, through redefining, restructuring and repositioning the industry.

Taxis on South Africa's roads are responsible for commuting 15-million people every day or around 65% of the country's working population, yet the sector is saddled with a bad reputation of being an unsafe and rude industry. Mthembu said that the industry was ready to change its image and take hold of additional opportunities presenting itself in the space of public transport. He emphasised that key to rebranding the industry would be that of training its drivers.

Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele, who was speaking at the Santaco event in Midrand, said that government would adopt the taxi association's new 2020 vision, and committed R5,5-million from the department's funds to setting up new training academies. The Minister said that strategic partnerships within this new drive must be consolidated within the next three months. He also set a date of April 2011 to have the taxi academies "up and running".

Further, the TR3 2020 strategy envisions taking the industry beyond its original markets. Santaco has identified middle-income South Africa as an immediate market to enter, considering the rising price of fuel and the new road tolling systems coming into play by the second quarter of next year.

To accommodate this initiative, the organisation would be looking to form a number of strategic partnerships with not only government, but also vehicle and tyre manufacturers, banks and other financial institutions and business.

Every year, the taxi industry consumes around R15-billion in fuel, purchases about R10-billion in vehicles and spends R150-million on tyres."We have been an industry of consumers, but going forward we will become equity partners and owners in these businesses," said Mthemba.

Ndebele agreed with this, saying that the Department of Transport had identified the taxi industry as a key part of its broad-based black economic-empowerment (BBBEE) drive.The organisation also voiced its desire to be included in policy decisions that it would be affected by. To this end, Santaco would sign a memorandum of understanding with the South African National Civics Organisation (Sanco) in the coming weeks.

Sanco president and transport portfolio committee chairperson Ruth Bhengu said that it was "high time" that one of the most powerful black-owned and operated businesses in South Africa had a say in relevant policy decisions. "Sanco will assist Santaco to build this industry and give the business its rightful voice."

Bhengu said that, by 2020, the taxi industry would have evolved into a transport industry through its entrance into the bus, train, trucks, shipping and air sectors.

The Minister concurred, saying that this would be a type of "economic guerrilla warfare" in the BBBEE space. "This TR3 2020 vision will see a new dawn for the taxi business in South Africa."

"Before we can fly, we have to break out of our cocoon. The taxi industry has today started to break out of its cocoon," concluded Mthemba.