By Sharon Atieno

With increased urbanization and population resulting in more mobility across the continent, Africa needs to improve its transport system.

These remarks were shared during a workshop on Sustainable Mobility in Africa convened by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Rob Jong, Head, Sustainable Mobility Unit, UNEP noted that with the number of vehicles in the continent set to triple by 2050, this will lead to triple congestion, increased air pollution and climate change.

Jong adds that despite air pollution being a rising concern in Africa as a result of the increased importation of used light duty vehicles which sometimes do not meet basic standards and thus are very polluting; most countries are scoring poorly when it comes to policies to improve air quality.

A recent UNEP report on Used vehicles and the environment shows that of the 14 million used light duty vehicles exported worldwide between 2015 and 2018, 80 percent went to low-and-middle income countries, with more than half going to Africa.

Moreover, Africa had the highest growth in transport carbon dioxide emissions between 2000 and 2017 with Kenya, Ghana, Algeria, Egypt and South Africa respectively being the biggest emitters, he said.

“You are more likely to die if you are walking in Africa than anywhere else in the world,” Jong notes referring to the World Health Organization statistics which shows that in both 2013 and 2016 Africa had the highest traffic death rates globally at 26 deaths per 100,000.

He however notes that there is no one golden bullet for the transport situation in Africa and gives several recommendations.

Jong said cities should be designed much better than they are currently to allow better infrastructure for cycling and walking.

We cannot build our way out of congestion through building more roads but through an effective transport system, he notes.

Jong cautions against the need for motorized travel which pollutes the environment and causes congestion among other things.

He encourages a shift to use of public transport, railways, walking and cycling as well as new movement services which are more environmentally friendly modes.

He also called for an improved energy efficiency of transport modes such as renewable energy, electric cars and an improved fuel economy.

So far, UNEP is working with various African countries to ensure clean up fleets which consume low sulfur fuels, which meet basic vehicles emissions standards and automotive fuel economy for example, through taxation based on carbon dioxide emissions.

Also, the organization is supporting putting in place national and city policies which favor the development of walking and cycling infrastructure as well as financing of this infrastructure in some areas.

Moreover, UNEP is supporting zero and low mobility emissions across the continent through promotion of soot free buses and the switch to electric vehicles.