Traffic and transportation issues affect the economic development of a country or city. What role does sustainable transportation play in Africa? And how can public-private partnerships help in achieving sustainable transportation in Africa?
Sustainability of transportation in Africa right now is not primarily about the ecological part, but about the functional, economic and social part of the question. People – all over the world – are choosing their mode of transport according to convenience (which also includes price and speed).
However, there are issues that need to be addressed such as the living environment in cities or the air-quality.
To manage the kind of growth happening in Africa without having an urban sprawl, there is a need for another way of organizing cities. The planning paradigm used here needs to be based on proximity and on cutting trip distances in general.
This transition would become possible if the urban development paradigm changed from an explosion into the surrounding of the city into an implosion into the centres, creating density and managing that density within the city by reclaiming public space from traffic.
The role of sustainable transportation in Africa’s economic development
The access to opportunities is the strongest argument for public transport, but the economic development is also extremely affected by the actual traffic situation and transportation issues. There are economic losses because of traffic congestion of up to 2 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in Europe, 1.2 percent of the GDP in the United Kingdom and 0.7 percent of the GDP in the United States.
Asian megacities such as Beijing or Bangkok lose up to 6 percent of their GDP and Lima (Peru, South America) even loses 10 percent of its GDP to traffic congestion. Sticking to the same transport paradigm for African countries especially with the huge urban growth would be absolutely hindering for the economic development in Africa.
For example, at the moment, 3.4 percent of GDP is lost in Dakar, 3.4 percent in Dar es Saalam (Tanzania) and probably even more in cities like Nairobi where people on average spend around four hours in daily travel – lost time for the economy.
Africa will not be able to jump onto another economic level preserving the same transport system.
Funding and pricing of sustainable transportation in Africa
The implementation of a public transport system in Africa needs to be funded both from private investors who build up the system to operate it later on and from donor money. So, donor organizations will not affect the pricing of service too much, but they will be able to affect the price of the implementation, which includes a huge responsibility in the decision which modes to support.
Since governments are usually not in a situation to operate a public transport system, they will need private partners who have the required experience or who can – in a much more effective way – acquire that experience. The challenge is to find transport modes which are affordable in their implementation, and private investors willing to operate these at affordable prices for the users.
Private investors need to start thinking in longer terms and with lower margins of benefits, because otherwise the required ridership to operate the transport system will be difficult to find. Longer term concessions may be one form of achieving this, but they require a longer term political stability as well.
In what other ways do you think sustainable transport will make a positive impact on Africa’s economic development? Share your opinions in our comment section
Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.