Paving the way for safer roads in Africa
Shifting into high gear, EU-funded researchers are driving a new Action Plan to make roads safer in Africa.
© Daniel #209227495, source: fotolia.com 2018
As a continent, Africa has some of the most lethal roads in the world. A lack of road safety protocols, wanting road conditions and poor post-crash emergency response systems make for alarmingly high fatality rates.
To help turn this around, the EU-funded project SaferAfrica is driving policies aimed at improving road safety.
Europe can play an important role by supporting African countries in improving road safety and achieving the Action Plan targets [African Road Safety Action Plan 2011-2020], says project coordinator Luca Persia, Director of The Centre for Transport and Logistics (CTL) of Sapienza, University of Rome. In this view, the project aims at building favourable conditions and opportunities for the effective implementation of road safety actions in African countries by setting up a Dialogue Platform between Africa and Europe.
According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), Africa has fewer than 5000 cars for every 100 000 people. In Europe, the ratio is about 48 000:100 000. But the chance of dying in a road traffic crash in Africa is almost three times higher than in Europe ((26.6% fatality rate per 100 000 inhabitants per year versus 9.6%).
These figures suggest that Africa urgently needs to seek different ways to cut the risk of road traffic accidents, and take advantage of available experience. EU knowhow can contribute here.
As explained by Persia, SaferAfrica is supporting national and local governments in Africa to better understand current weaknesses and country needs in road safety management.
Based on international methodologies, road safety and traffic management capacity reviews at the country level were carried out in three African countries, namely: Cameroon, Tunisia and Kenya. The activities are ongoing in Burkina Faso and South Africa, he says.
Driving change in Burkina Faso
Road accidents are an almost-daily occurrence in the landlocked country of Burkina Faso, where travelling by road is the primary means of getting around.
Involved in the SaferAfrica project from its inception, Burkina Faso is a member of the projects Stakeholders group. The countrys National Office for Road Safety (ONASER) participates in consultations and interacts with stakeholders from other countries.
Burkina Faso was also selected to participate in the Road Safety Management Capacity Review as a country representative for the West Africa Region.
A collection of stakeholder views about current approaches (strengths and weaknesses), this review will result in an expert road safety management opinion about the scope for further multi-sectoral actions in the country. Recommendations will be based on national and international good practice, and will have a focus on sustainability.
Persia expects the review to provide a useful management tool for road safety policy-makers and managers. A preliminary inception report already shared with the country stakeholders and policy-makers suggests that several issues affect the various road safety management functions, among others: lack of manpower, lack of training, and weak financial means, says Persia.
Before the project ends, the partners will seek to reach a consensus between the different stakeholders and agencies involved as to the next steps.
Green light for improvement
Launched in 2016, SaferAfrica has already celebrated many important achievements.
The most prominent one is the two-level Dialogue Platform [DP], notes Persia. The Institutional level of the DP comprises representatives of existing institutions and competent authorities at the country and continent levels tackling regulatory, financing and planning issues in the different fields involved in road safety.
The second level is technical, comprising both African and European government and research institutions, international institutions and non-governmental organisations.
Another important milestone is the development of the African Road Safety Observatory, which Persia regards as one of the projects most important outcomes.
This web-based portal has a double function: supporting the activities of the DP and providing users access to the latest statistics and reports related to road safety and traffic management in Africa.
A third important step, according to Persia, is the core of the projects Capacity Building pillar. To be rolled out later this year, it will involve the creation of an e-learning tool, available in English, French and Portuguese, designed for road safety experts in Africa.