High Volume Transport

Vital transport research to ensure accessible, affordable and climate friendly transport for all.

COVID-19 Urban transport response – Opportunities for policymaking in Africa

Holger Dalkmann, Jeff Turner

On Wednesday 6 May, HVT in partnership with the UK-based NGO Climate Parliament, organised a roundtable with 13 parliamentarians from 10 African countries to discuss current challenges and identify key policy actions in the urban transport sector.

Urban transport is at the heart of the current COVID-19 pandemic as it provides a vital service for health and other key workers, who have to get to their workplaces. As many countries in Africa are starting to ease their lockdown measures, it is key to enable safe and reliable access for all people to their workplaces and vital services, like hospital and schools. Therefore, a coordinated, science-based response from all levels of government is crucial to ensure the best possible public health outcome with the least economically damaging impact for all, as we state in this report.

The roundtable focused on how to make public transport as safe as possible and looked ahead to economic recovery programmes as an opportunity to promote sustainable transport.

Currently, COVID-19 cases in Africa are much lower than in Europe and the United States and many countries went into early lockdown. One of the key challenges has been to ensure food supply, particularly for the most vulnerable, as borders have been closed. In countries like Ghana and Gambia, fuel tax has been reduced for public transport to compensate for the loss of fare income.

At the same time, countries that are starting to opening up have been taking precautionary measures, like limiting bus capacity to ensure physical distancing. It is recognised that in the phase of easing travel restrictions, financial compensation needs to be considered as an incentive for meeting higher hygienic standards. One way of easing the pressure on public transport is through walking and cycling, by providing more space through dedicated sidewalks and cycleways. Parliamentarians at the roundtable also agreed that the current pandemic should be used as an opportunity to link economic recovery measures with countries’ climate plans, such as modernising bus fleets and incentivising bike procurement.

HVT and Climate Parliament, in partnership with UN-HABITAT and UITP, developed a note for policy-makers to consider as an input to the discussion. Most information, policies and guidance that are currently available and can be defined as good practice originate from the global North and are not always applicable to the situation in African countries. The policy note suggests a common policy framework for national government stakeholders to consider in raising awareness and initiating a policy dialogue around solutions for the urban mobility sector in Africa.

Seven key policy actions are recommended:

1) Planning the COVID-19 response: Establish a dedicated committee on transport and ensure alignment within overall COVID-19 policy management

2) Policies for formal public transport operations: Ensure safe services for staff and passengers

3) Policies for the informal transport sector (minibuses, vans, etc.): Ensure inclusive and fair services

4) Policies for taxis (for sole use, not shared): Enable sector to provide essential services

5) Policies for walking and cycling: Enhance the use of zero exposure modes

6) Accompanying policies: Integrate transport with other policy areas to ensure a comprehensive action
7) Fiscal policies

Click here to read the full policy note.