All hands on deck! TRANSITIONS team in Kigali to share findings on informal transport in sub-saharan cities

After nearly two years of working together remotely on the High-Volume Transport (HVT) Applied Research TRANSITIONS project, it has been wonderful to have the opportunity to meet with project partner, Vectos, and other City Research Leaders in Kigali, Rwanda at the Africa Regional Forum for Action – Inclusive & Active Mobility in a Changing Climate.

This conference, organized by the UN HABITAT, UNEP, among other key stakeholders, was a fine opportunity for Transitec, in joint effort with Vectos, to present on findings from the TRANSITIONS High Volume Transport (HVT) project. The start point for the TRANSITIONS applied research project is the recognition that, for the majority of Sub-Saharan African cities, informal transport is the true mass, collective form of transit meeting daily needs. In the context of the ‘climate crisis’, rapid urbanisation, increasing congestion and worsening air quality, the project therefore sets out to address two main research questions:

Looking ahead, what is the role of informal transport in cities in the global south?

Informal transport services have evolved over time and respond in a dynamic manner to passenger needs, including those of the poorest travellers. In the majority of cases, these transport services can be viewed as a response to institutional under-capacity or failure to provide formal public transport services in fast-growing metropolitan areas. In these circumstances, TRANSITIONS begins with the proposition that informal public transport operators are and could continue to be a large part of the solution for high volume transport, while acknowledging that there are serious negative externalities to be addressed.

How then can we enable a transition towards a clean, affordable, efficient and safe transport network involving informal transport?

Considering the scale and organisation of the informal public transport sector, and the capacities of the public sector, different combinations of actions could be considered. These range from infrastructure provision and appropriate access regulations, through to improved maintenance and operational practices, fleet renewal and business development support, as well as improved routing, passenger information and services. Understanding the channels for engagement with the diverse and often fragmented informal sector is also important if any such proposed actions are to be pursued.

With these questions in mind, the TRANSITIONS research methodology set out to find answers through three main types of surveys, conducted in five cities of sub-saharan africa (Accra, Kumasi, Freetown, Maputo, Cape Town):

  • Semi-structured Interviews – to understand local topics, policies and initiatives through the lens of key stakeholders from the Informal transport industry (operator group executives, vehicle owners, drivers), national and local authorities (in charge of transport planning, regulation and enforcement), vehicle and fuel providers (vehicle importers, vehicle finance providers, fuel importers/distributors).
  • Passenger Opinion Surveys - to collect data on passengers’ mobility habits, needs and satisfaction levels
  • Fuel Consumption Surveys - to measure how much fuel vehicles consume in relation to distance driven, both quantitatively (with the installation of GPS trackers and Fuel Probes) and qualitatively (through daily check-ins with drivers over a 7-day period)

Thanks to UN HABITAT, UNEP and all other organisers of the Africa Regional Forum for Action event for inviting Transitec and Vectos, and our able City Research Leaders to introduce our work on informal public transport and to contribute towards a cleaner, more affordable, safer and more efficient informal public transport system in Africa. 

--> Agenda of the Africa Regional Forum for Action - Inclusive & Active Mobility in a Changing Climate, Kigali, 7-9 June, 2022

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