Skip to main content
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on 9 June 2023
Block Builder

The Vice-Chancellor of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, through the Public Lectures Committee invites the University Community and the general public to a Professorial Inaugural Lecture scheduled as follows:

Abstract of the Lecture

Topic: “Transport poverty in Africa: Planning for our mobility futures in an era of sustainability.”

Poverty is one of the greatest challenges of humanity and the dominant discourse in development thinking, especially in developing countries. It is a key focus of development as it remains number one in the Sustainable Development Goals (Goal 1: No poverty) and a priority area of Africa Union’s Agenda 2063 (Poverty, Inequality, and Hunger). Although poverty is a global phenomenon, it is highly concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The conceptualisation and operationalisation of poverty, therefore, have evolved to include non-income dimensions even though there are varied views on the expression and operationalisation of the phenomenon. Beyond the indirect contribution, transport infrastructure also has a direct contribution to poverty reduction irrespective of the economic growth channel. However, the contribution of transport infrastructure to poverty reduction appears to depend on its impact on income and non-income dimensions of poverty. In income poverty, transport infrastructure provides different economic opportunities for poor people to raise their income levels through improved productivity from their limited resources.

Transport services are critical to the mobility of capital, people, and goods between production units and market centres. However, transport services in Africa are inefficient and are demonstrated by the high cost of vehicles, poor maintenance culture, and poor operating practices, among others. Consequently, transport poverty has been identified as a critical issue requiring urgent attention in academia, governance, local and international actors, and organisations.

Transport poverty has not received a universal definition or a single measure but is generally conceptualised as the inability of individuals to make the journeys needed such as to work and school. Relatedly, transport poverty is argued to connote mobility and accessibility poverty, social exclusion, or transport disadvantage. It is estimated that more than half of the world’s population live in cities, which are highly dynamic and complex entities, going through some transformation. In developing countries, cities have witnessed accelerated urbanisation driven by changing demographics, rural-urban migration, economic growth strategies, and capital flows. Even though these transformations have resulted in some opportunities, cities in the global south do face several adverse consequences. For instance, city dwellers often lack essential rights to the city as they have limited access to basic services.

Additionally, the quality of available services often varies and is rather costly; thus, worsening the poverty situation in general and transport poverty in particular. Despite this, transport poverty has not fully captured the attention of relevant stakeholders in developing countries. Moreover, given the persistent patterns of urbanisation and their attendant challenges, transport poverty has become a much larger and attention-based problem. Although the manifestations of poverty in Africa are extensively discussed, transport and mobility have received the least attention. This lecture thus uproots and engages transport poverty in Africa; explores current knowledge on the subject; situates it within empirical contexts and provokes discussions about research and policy futures for improved transport and mobility on the continent. Quoting a distinguished Professor in Urban and Regional Planning, Professor Eno Okoko, ‘Transportation is as old as man himself’ and plays a critical role in man’s activities by facilitating the movement of goods and passengers and poverty reduction efforts of households (Ekoko, 2018).

I submit that travel provides a way to access vital resources including employment, education, shopping, and promote social networks, all of which have an impact on one's quality of life. However, social inequality and exclusion are intrinsically related to limited mobility. ‘Doing-Nothing’ as a strategy for decision-making may appear cheaper and less laborious as it allows the status quo to perpetuate itself. Even though this strategy may be useful in certain instances, addressing the challenges associated with transport poverty cannot be one of such instances. I further submit that ‘Doing-Nothing’ implies longer travel time, air and noise pollution, traffic injuries, high fares, a car-dependency society, limited availability of public transport, individuals with low capacity to travel, and limited access to social and economic infrastructure, among others.

To meet the demands of the future, I proffer the following:

  1. Implement an integrated land use and transport planning that has improving accessibility levels as the overriding priority. Addressing the prevailing accessibility challenges and averting the possibility of them worsening should begin with addressing the problem of uncontrolled urban expansion. The distribution of land uses determines the location of activities. Hence, the spatial separation among the various land uses creates the need for interactions that manifest in travel by different mobility options.
  2. Redevelop informal and slum settlements into sustainable communities where access to basic socio-economic facilities abound, thus reducing the need to travel substantially.
  3. Prepare Local Transport Plans (LTPs) for the development of a sustainable and inclusive transportation system that seeks to ensure travel time savings, reductions in travel costs, accessibility improvement, and reduced negative impact of transport on the environment.
  4. Encourage local authorities to partner the private sector in providing improved bus services within their jurisdiction. Since people with low incomes tend to use commercial buses more than others, there is a case for improving local bus services which will result in reducing transport poverty. Offering concessionary fares for older, disabled, and poor people will further reduce the barriers to travel and can help to address poverty.
  5. The Government of Ghana should seriously work to implement public transport services (e.g., BRT) as one of the best ways to stabilise transport costs and particularly minimize the financial stress on lower income people. The BRT case in Dar as Salaam, Tanzania should inspire us as a country.
  6. Develop a National Transport Poverty Index led by the Ministries of Transport and Local Government and Rural Development and Academia to measure how far the various MMDAs are in addressing transport poverty. It will also be used to rank the various MMDAs. Variables such as transport access, transport mobility, transport affordability, exposure to transport externalities, and inclusiveness could serve as the basis for developing such an index. The development and use of the National Transport Poverty Index will be the first of its kind, globally, and will serve as a useful tool in shaping transport investment decisions.
  7. Institute community-based transport schemes that use commercial minibuses, with volunteer drivers which provide a service to meet a community's needs. Funding for this service could come from the fares paid and sometimes from local authorities.
  8. The Ministry of Transport and Academia must begin studies leading to the planning for Ghana’s transport futures related to electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, mobility as a service (MaaS), and other innovations to work in our local contexts. This recommendation may seem far from us but the emergence of ride-hailing services such as Uber, and Bolt, just to mention a few, should remind us of the global nature of the world we are in today and the need to prepare for the future.

Keywords: Transport poverty; Urbanisation; Mobility; Sustainability; Global South