Transport in Africa: a crucial issue

Efficient, sustainable modes of transport are essential to release the economic potential of the African continent, while ensuring the fundamental aspect of social equity among people of diverse socio-economic backgrounds is respected.

In most African countries, transport of people and goods continues to be provided through informal means, obviously for cost reasons but mostly due to the lack of viable alternatives. These transport services — known as “clando” in Cameroon, “danfo” in Lagos, “gbaka” in Côte d’Ivoire and “matatu” in Uganda — operate in both urban and rural areas, but are generally inefficient, often because of chaotic development and the fact that they aren’t taken into account in integrated transport planning.

As shown by Diaz Olvera et al. (2010), these informal modes of transport, especially in urban areas, tend to greatly hamper city-dwellers’ capacity to emerge from poverty, as they do not facilitate efficient access to urban facilities such as educational or health institutions, cultural centres and employment areas. Instead, the most disadvantaged populations are often limited to the opportunities provided near their area of residence, which, considering the proliferation of shanty towns in sub-Saharan Africa, often leaves little room for human and economic development.

Study should not be limited to considerations related to the socio-economic development of the continent – they should encompass environmental concerns. African economic and demographic growth coincides with more intensive use of cars and trucks, which often run on polluting fuels, resulting in worrying levels of pollution, as observed in Accra, Cairo and Lagos. Similar to attempts to increase the efficiency of existing modes of transport, especially with regard to public transport systems, more ecological solutions for personal and collective vehicles such as electricity, natural gas and biofuels can be encouraged and put in place.


Bibliography: Lourdes Diaz Olvera, Didier Plat, Pascal Pochet and Maïdadi Sahabana, « Entre contraintes et innovation: évolutions de la mobilité quotidienne dans les villes d’Afrique subsaharienne » (Between Constraints and Innovation: Evolutions of Daily Mobility in Sub-Saharan African Cities), Espace populations sociétés, 2010/2-3 | 2010, 337-348.

United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2019). World Population Perspectives 2019, online edition

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