Niko Hüls from Backspin knows the hip hop scene like no one else. But aside from interviewing artists or recording his latest YouTube video, he fights for clean access to water all over the world with Viva con Agua from St. Pauli.
Dear Niko, you recently travelled to Uganda with Viva con Agua to get one step closer to the goal of fresh drinking water around the globe. How did you move around within Uganda?
At the moment, Uganda is (still) part of the third world rather than the first. The network in Uganda is not yet well developed; it is chaotic and confusing. There are no signs and no timetables. For the people there the system works, but it is difficult for tourists and inconvenient for them to use. Therefore it was more important for us to get a so-called Boda Boda. These are mopeds that are driven by locals who are waiting in crowds at the streets to take you from A to B. It takes a bit of courage and self-confidence to ride a Boda Boda, but it's always worth the experience. With the low prices you don't have to bargain too much and the locals are also very open-minded and happy to give you a ride.
In Uganda, only 9% of the population have their own car, yet the streets are hopelessly packed with traffic. Public transport - especially in and around Kampala - is constantly being expanded. Do you see the expansion of mobility as a general development opportunity for Uganda?
The crucial point here is that local people often have no work. That's why they take the bus to get to the city and this creates chaos. But you can see the steady expansion of mobility. And this is a huge opportunity for Uganda. Whether it’s to get drinking water or to go to work, mobility considerably improves the locals’ quality of life and helps them earn money.
Mobility also offers a completely different opportunity: because transport connects cultures too. We went to Uganda with open arms and hearts – and were treated the same way.
How much are you (and your surroundings) concerned with mobility in Germany and the future of mobility?
The topic of mobility is very important to us. This is also due to the fact that there are now many more means of transport than the car. There is classic public transport, like the railways. Then there are shared bikes or shared scooters, which can be booked via an app. With these electric scooters you also experience the area in a completely different way. Both professionally and privately, mobility is a hot topic for us. When we are on the move so much due to our job, every kind of mobility is important. For example, bicycle rentals or car sharing. This is in addition to the various possibilities offered by rail. For us, mobility is an opportunity. Travelling to see the world in order to meet and get to know people is best done through transportation. And that's something you should take advantage of, especially at a time when fear prevails in some areas.
I believe that, with the rapid growth of cities, people's mobility is becoming more and more important. I also like the idea of car sharing and not possessing your own car at all. In my opinion, however, this needs to be expanded so that you can also travel independently and individually outside Hamburg. We live in such a colourful world; it should be possible for everyone to be connected and networked and not for people coming from villages to have to stay there because of a lack of transport. Mobility is the engine to see the world.
For some years now, people have had more and more opportunities to travel in major German cities such as Hamburg. How does this influence your mobility behaviour?
It's quite simple. Personally, I have a car that I need privately and professionally. But in Eimsbüttel it's very difficult to park as there aren’t enough spaces. That's why car sharing is a good idea. It's much more flexible and faster, and the prices are also reasonable. I would also like to see shared scooters, which could be parked at any street corner, in Hamburg. But you generally notice that shared services are used more here. It can often be problematic getting a car2go or a bicycle, so there needs to be great availability. Then mobility behaviour would change even more.
Could you imagine living without a car? What services would you use instead and how should they work?
I am somehow forced to use a car due to my job and a crucial need for independence. The equipment required for video production means you often need a car. Nevertheless, I like to leave it in the garage whenever possible. Then I use offers like car2go. If I want to spend a little more money, I also like to get into a shared taxi. On a private level this is much easier. If there was a concept like car2go with thousands of cars, it would have a big impact on my working life, too.