Transport Policies are Key for Sustaining Economic Growth Across Africa
Good governance in transport is critical to sustain the development of the sector, writes Jean- Noël Guillossou of the Africa Transport Policy Programme (SSATP), hosted by the World Bank. Guillossou is Programme Manager of the EU-funded, 38 country SSATP, and shares key lessons learned from implementing this project.
European Mobility Week (16 – 22 September) will see more than 2,000 cities in 43 countries implement activities to create a more sustainable mobility culture.
Drawing attention to transportation challenges in developing countries, this week’s Voices & Views comes from Jean- Noël Guillossou, Programme Manager of the Africa Transport Policy Programme (SSATP). He is in charge of developing the strategic vision for the programme, leading dialogue among partners, and ensuring ownership of the programme by stakeholders.
Guillossou joined the World Bank in 1990 and has worked in Africa (11 countries), Latin America (Haiti) and South Asia (Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka). He has a civil engineering degree with a specialisation in transport, and a PhD in transport economics.
When we drive down a road, hop on a bus to get across town or take a ferry to reach the other bank of the river we are aware of the means of transportation or the actual infrastructure that takes us from point A to point B. Few of us ever think of the policy framework that enables such networks to develop, let alone expand and respond to the ever increasing demands of growing populations and communities.
Yet policy is as important as infrastructure itself because it provides the enabling environment for decision-makers to determine which legislation and regulation are needed, how best to implement them and how to ensure that investments in the transport sector will benefit everyone. This is why the European Commission, and other partners, initiated the Africa Transport Policy Program (SSATP) to facilitate policy development and capacity development in the transport sector in Africa.
The SSATP is a partnership created in 1987 that currently comprises 38 African countries, regional economic communities, continental institutions (African Union Commission), U.N. agencies (UN Economic Commission for Africa), public and private sector organisations, and international development agencies and organisations.
Prior to working for the SSATP, I spent many years working on the same subject in South East Asia. This experience has been useful to me because many of the problems that Africa faces today in the transport sector, Asia already faced a decade ago. I am referring to rapid urbanisation rates, rural-urban access gaps, and weak governance in a sector that often attracts big contracts. The Asia experience can not only help us anticipate problems and find innovative solutions that have worked elsewhere, but serve as a basis for creatively addressing challenges specific to the African context.
Three examples illustrate some of the results and lessons learned from the SSATP experience in Africa.
Promoting Governance Indicators in the Transport Sector
Good governance in transport is critical to sustain the development of the sector. This objective is often promoted in order to reduce costs and ensure that improvements benefit all. SSATP’s work on the commercialisation of road management, second-generation road funds (where users contribute fees towards road management) and governance indicators is all aimed at promoting good governance.
This year, the SSATP formally shared the results of a study conducted in four African countries (Mali, Tanzania, Kenya and Zambia) that identified a set of indicators that can be used to demonstrate, in a clear and measurable way, the level and quality of governance in the transport sector as well as monitor results and actions that are taken in this area.
This particular study identified some of the root causes that contribute to poor governance in the transport sector in many countries in Africa. These include political interference in projects and key governing board appointments; limited or non-existent integrated transport sector policies; poor institutional and regulatory arrangements; unrealistic budgets; lack of prioritisation; long-term underinvestment; and an overemphasis on building road instead of also improving efficiency of existing infrastructure.
Indicators were proposed in key areas that are directly linked to the transport sector, such as budget, procurement and sustainability (to name just a few). However, the study also emphasised that indicators are only the first step. Continuous monitoring is needed to generate measurable results as well as targeted advocacy and support. The SSATP will be using these indicators in a set of target countries and will measure their impact and effectiveness in improving governance in the transport sector over the coming years.
Improving governance is an ongoing process that is facilitated by indicators, as illustrated in a similar work I did with the Local Government Engineering Department in Bangladesh. This institution, one of the best in the country, requested this type of intervention to achieve higher performance and improve capacity in the transport sector in Bangladesh.
Regional Integration: Improving Efficiency of Border Crossings
Regional transport in Africa has often been characterised by long queues at the borders, high transport costs, delays at ports and endemic corruption. While investing in infrastructure has been critical to remove these obstacles and boost regional trade, this needs to be complemented by additional measures to achieve border efficiency according to research conducted by the SSATP.
These measures include the promotion of better coordination among border agencies, the introduction of mandatory pre-arrival customs forms and the creation of enabling IT systems that support faster administrative processing.
A survey conducted by the SSATP at the Malaba border post on the Northern Corridor in East Africa provided ample evidence of how seemingly minor interventions can reduce border-crossing times.
According to this survey, crossing times that routinely took over 48 hours, dropped to less than six hours. Average border-crossing time dropped from 24 hours to 4 hours. The savings generated by the improvement of the situation are estimated at approximately US$ 70 M per year. With an average of 600 trucks per days, the Malaba border post is one of the busiest crossings along the Northern Corridor.
So when it comes to regional integration and trade facilitation, border crossings are critical investment nodes that require special attention. The Malaba case study provides an example of improved efficiency that can be replicated in other major transport routes across Africa with the right amount of political will, as demonstrated by the Ugandan and Kenyan authorities.
River Observatories: Boosting Waterway Economies
River transport is dear to my heart as a result of the work I did in Bangladesh, where 12 percent of the rural population relies solely on river transport as a mode of access to the rest of the country. This mode of transportation is also critical in parts of Africa, especially in remote areas that have little or no infrastructure.
But river transport is often neglected and under-utilised. One way to address this is through the creation of “river observatories”, whose mandate is to collect specific data in order to promote development, commerce and effective usage of waterways.
The European Commission and the SSATP have partnered to support the creation of a river observatory on the Congo River, one of the most important fluvial arteries of Africa and the third largest river in the world in terms of water volume.
Although the Congo River is vital for the economic development of Central Africa, the traffic flows along the Brazzaville – Kinshasa – Bangui – Kisangani corridor are facing numerous non-physical obstacles, such as too many checkpoints, taxes, and illegal fees, resulting in longer hours of navigation and many inefficiencies.
In order to achieve the goal of facilitating trade, set in the regional cooperation agreement that established the International Commission of the Congo Oubangui Sangha River (CICOS), decisive interventions are required to remove obstacles and facilitate sustainable development of the river corridor and its economy.
The main task of the CICOS-led river observatory is to collect and process data from the river corridor, creating a database with a set of 25 indicators that will be utilised for decision-making and implementation monitoring. The goal is to remove all non-physical barriers by 2025. The EC will cover half of the operational costs of this river observatory, while CICOS will be responsible for the other half.
The SSATP is also working with the regional economic communities in Africa to facilitate indicators and ultimately harmonise the monitoring of corridors, including rivers as part of multi-modal corridors, for better performance.
There is no doubt that the transport sector is at the core of Africa’s economic development and continued prosperity. SSATP facilitates policy development, fosters dialogue among key stakeholders and collects evidence of gaps in the transport sector in order to promote innovative solutions and knowledge dissemination.
If there is one 'take away' message from Asia’s transport sector that is equally applicable to Africa, is that capacity development (CD) is critical for developing and implementing effective transport policies. The goal of CD is to provide leaders, institutions and other stakeholders the ability to achieve the objectives that have been defined in the policies. This requires improved availability of data, monitoring and evaluation systems to underpin policy decisions, the creation of proper institutions and the resources required to achieve the sector’s objectives. Improving synergies with the private sector can also contribute to filling capacity gaps.
This collaborative piece was drafted with input from Jean- Noël Guillossou and Beatrice Spadacini, with support from the capacity4dev.eu Coordination Team.