Thinking with young people: Transport experiences and aspirations in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia
This document is a ‘think piece’ about transport and young people in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. People who take decisions about transport planning and investment tend not to be young. By virtue of their positions in society, transport planners can neither really understand nor act on the aspirations and compulsions of young people without careful research that engages sensitively with young people.
Young people are a significant demographic of future transport users. What they want for the future is what the future could become; or, if these ideas can be worked and reshaped then an alternative future could be brought into existence. Our approach to these questions is to understand the cultural frames in which young people think about themselves, each other and the future direction of travel of the world. We use an ‘anthropological’ frame to understand these issues, taking seriously young people’s understandings of and engagement with their lives and the world.
We briefly review key milestones in recent social science literature on the conditions of young people in these regions. This material shows how the period of ‘youth’ has been extended by the spread of tertiary education and mass unemployment, taking it far beyond the traditional rituals marking the distinction between childhood and young adulthood. The rituals marking this fundamental transition emphasised separation from the family and early ties of belonging and these ideas continue to be deeply significant in the decision-making and planning activities of young people in relation to transport and the future.