Smart Mobility in MENA

Mohamed Mezghani
Secretary General International Association of Public Transport (UITP)

Could you expand on your mission and the work related to sustainable development?

The International Association of Public Transport (UITP) was established in 1885. The central belief is that we consider that public transport and sustainable mobility are a way to enhance the well-being of people, the quality of life in cities, and the economy of our cities. We have a total more than 1900 members in 100 countries. We have three primary missions; the first is about advocating for public transport and sustainable mobility by engaging with the policymakers, ministers, governments, and international organisations like the European Commission, for example, the World Bank, and the United Nations. The second mission is about research and knowledge. We want UITP to be the centre of expertise for public transport and sustainable mobility. Many of our projects are at the international level. For example, in Dubai, we have a team working on issues of interest for the MENA region. We have developed capacity buildings, public transport, sustainable mobility, and technical and policy issues. The third mission is what we call networking. We organise events, workshops, and exhibitions, offering a platform for our members to meet, exchange, and develop their businesses. Smart cities are a critical feature in the transition toward interconnected and sustainable cities.

How is your UITP accelerating this goal in the European Union?

Our approach to smart is not limited to intelligent technology; it is also about creating a smart governance system. For example, we want to be sure that everything which is initiated at the European level will come with benefits to public transport and public transport users. So if there is any new regulation on the mobility market, it should come with benefits for the sector and the people using public transport. To keep up to date and track the mobility development at the European Union (EU) level, we have an EU committee where public stakeholders throughout Europe are involved. Additionally, we have an approach at the resource level involving UITP members in European projects ranging from electric buses to autonomous vehicles and ticketing.

Could you tell us more about your work in the MENA region and the developments you see happening?

We have been working in the MENA region for almost 20 years. Our first event was in 2003 in Dubai. This city has created one of the most developed transportation systems in the world. Today, we are proud to say we have an office in Morocco and Dubai. Egypt is investing much money to develop public transport; particularly with COP27 around the corner, they have decided to prioritise mobility which is great news. In Morocco, the development is also exciting because its governance of public transport is one of the most efficient in the region. Therefore, many opportunities exist to develop public transport projects and modernise them. Lastly, Saudi Arabia is building its six metro lines in Riyadh, a mega project in the world. They also have the Transport General Authority, which coordinates all transport projects at the country level. So all those developments show that the MENA region is showing leadership in some cities regarding public transport and sustainable mobility.

Could you tell us more about the main benefits for your members?

Our members have access to an international network of expert professionals. What UITP offers as a benefit is that it provides a network of professionals around the clock to help the other members. In addition to that, we have 120 people working at UITP. They develop studies, reports, and training by involving the members, and all those studies are at the members' disposal.

How did you become so passionate about this field? What's the story?

I have been working my whole career in transportation and mobility. When I was studying, we had a visiting professor from the Ecole Polytechnique of Lausanne in Switzerland teaching us transport for one week. At the end of that week, I said I wanted to work in the mobility industry, and I moved to Paris to study transport, where I started working in the transport and the urban mobility field. This field touches every one of us; it benefits every single person. This is what makes me passionate. I work for the people.