Interview with Mr. Franz R. Drees-Gross

Director for Transport – Infrastructure Practice Group, World Bank

“Africa’s main barriers to accessible and sustainable urban mobility include the lack of awareness and political will.”

 The World Bank will deliver a session at Africities on Local Strategies for access to Mobility and Transport for all. Can you tell us a little more about this? Why do think this is an important topic?

Sustainable mobility is central to Africa’s urban development. The face of African cities is evolving very fast due to demographics, the transformation of the continent’s economy and growing motorization. Today, African cities are crowded, disconnected and costly. They lack reliable transportation, which limits workers’ job opportunities and prevents firms from reaping scale and agglomeration benefits

This problem could be aggravated since it is expected that by 2050, 60 percent of Africans will live in urban areas, against a current world average of 51 percent. Africa’s rate of urbanization is by far the highest in the world, with 3.09 percent for the 2011-2030 period, compared with 1.87 percent in Asia, 1.13 percent in Latin America, 0.98 percent in North America and 0.33 percent in Europe.

Cities in all parts of Africa are facing challenges and urban mobility is one of the most prominent. Africa’s main barriers to accessible and sustainable urban mobility include the lack of awareness and political will, the lack of coordination and of a long-term approach as well as scarce know-how, weak human resources and insufficient financial means. In addition, the implementation of transport systems and infrastructures must consider the potential negative impacts and externalities of urban transport: road crashes and fatalities, pollution, and, at times, a lack of accessibility for some users.

The good news is that decision-makers across Africa, from the national to the city level, are more and more aware of these issues. Most are now implementing urban transport programs/projects – especially policy-oriented responses – to address those challenges.

The World Bank session at Africities, led by the Africa Transport Policy Program (SSATP), will discuss the policies and strategies that lead to structural improvements of urban mobility. The session will showcase key factors for successes in a context of fast-developing cities and metropolitan regions, with a strong emphasis on the inter-relationship of urban development, mobility, accessibility, and governance frameworks. It aims to provide to local authorities the key guiding principles and hands-on experience in policy development, governance reform and approaches in designing comprehensive strategies to improve urban development, accessibility and mobility.

 What impact would you like the workshop to have for local governments and mayors?

 Improving access and mobility in cities is a key objective of the World Bank’s support to Africa. The workshop will be an important contribution to that, helping to strengthen local governments’ capacity in urban transport management.

Government officials and mayors in particular will learn about new techniques of addressing the systemic issues their cities face due to the unprecedented rate of urbanization and the new dynamics of urban mobility. These include a new holistic approach with a vision for sustainable mobility for all, and how to bridge the knowledge and resources gap for urban mobility management. The session will also cover structural issues related to insufficient infrastructure provision, inadequate institutional settings, weak technical capacity and limited financial resources. The objective is for decision-makers to come out of the workshop with a good understanding of mobility challenges and how urban mobility efficiency can impact cities’ livability and economic productivity.

Drawing on its extensive experience in policy formulation, SSATP will showcase effective ways to support African countries in developing strategies and policies that will have a truly transformational impact. Other partners such as UN-Habitat will discuss and share the strategic directions for the new urban development agenda; and organizations such as CODATU and IUTP will share their global experience regarding better integration of land use and transport systems planning, as well as ways to improve urban transport management.

Finally, mayors will have the opportunity to discuss new integrated approaches to urban development, specifically how to design policies and strategies that capitalize on the synergy between land use planning and urban transport systems development.

Do you have any examples of cities in Africa that are exemplars in terms of transport and mobility?

 There is an urgent need to tackle urban mobility challenges across Africa, and some cities are already addressing it with courage. Among others, Dakar, Abidjan and Dar es Salaam have started to implement comprehensive visions for sustainable urban mobility and low-emission transport modes. They have identified the development of mass transit corridors as one of their top priorities to fulfill the growing mobility needs.

Among these solutions are bus rapid transport systems (BRTs) – which are reliable, affordable, cost-effective and high capacity. The implementation of these corridors embraces holistic strategies such as non-motorized transport, governance and institutional strengthening, stakeholder engagement, local operator professionalization and their involvement in an integrated public transport network. This is a key factor for successful projects. Several studies show that the implementation of these approaches lead to increased population access, to job opportunities and educational or health facilities. Specific assessments also point out gains in the poor suburbs served by some of these corridors.

Although some cities face challenges in implementing these strategies, and issues still need to be addressed, these cities are showing the way forward to tackling mobility challenges. The World Bank supports these initiatives by providing substantial financing and technical assistance that helps countries in moving to safer, greener and more efficient transport systems that are accessible to all, especially the poor and women.

How inclusive are these transport and mobility systems in terms of access and affordability for the vast number of working people who live in the slums? e.g. Gauteng Province in South Africa.

Accessibility remains a big challenge for African cities, as many poor live in the urban outskirts, where infrastructure is often lacking, but work or attend school in the city business district. This situation translates into longer and less affordable daily commutes for the poor, and less access to job opportunities, education and health facilities and other amenities of modern urban life.

In Gauteng, a BRT system was introduced and is being expanded to address this issue. However, the success of these systems is very dependent on the implementation strategy: high operational costs and delays in rollout are impacting the program. The authorities have drawn several lessons from the situation, and are exploring novel approaches that incorporate aspects of the informal transit systems into the BRT to lower costs while increasing coverage.

What influence can the World Bank have in ensuring that access and affordability are main considerations in the development of transport and mobility systems?

The World Bank has been playing a crucial role to ensure the development of sustainable transport and mobility systems.

As a convener, the World Bank created the Sustainable Mobility for All (SuM4All) initiative to bring together a fragmented international community and align them behind a common vision and action plan. SuM4All members include multilateral development banks, international development organizations and agencies, civil society organizations, and the private sector. Its ambition is to make mobility efficient, safe, green, and accessible, including in the dimension of gender.

The World Bank’s role as a thought leader has helped evolve the global discussion on transport and sustainable mobility. The future should lie in reducing private vehicle use, expanding other modes and creating new ones, and avoiding trips. This cannot be achieved without a structural transformation of the mobility system. Deep structural changes are required including behavioral changes, technology and interaction with other sectors to transform the sector.

For the last 30 years, the international development community has trusted the World Bank, as a transformational development player, to host and manage the Africa Transport Policy Program, which has as its mission to facilitate policy development and related capacity building in Africa’s transport sector. SSATP is an international partnership of 41 African countries, Regional Economic Communities, African institutions (African Union Commission, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa), public and private sector organizations and international development agencies. Under its current and third development plan (2015-2019), the Program includes a thematic pillar on urban mobility. To bring about this change, a shared and tailored roadmap of action which countries and cities can follow to achieve sustainable mobility is indispensable. It is with this in mind, that the World Bank, through the SSATP Urban Transport Mobility pillar and SuM4All’s “Global Roadmap of Action,” will be able to assist in the development of a menu of policy actions for planners, public decision makers and the private sector to further the Africa’s progress toward sustainable mobility.

Finally, as a financier, the World Bank ensures that all transport projects that it finances help in achieving sustainable mobility, with a strong emphasis on inclusiveness of women and vulnerable people. The record $75 billion 18th replenishment for the International Development Association (the World Bank’s concessional window for the poorest countries) will make it possible to double resources for many low-income countries affected by fragility, conflict and violence (FCV) to more than $14 billion over 3 years (FY19-21), a significant part of which is expected to support transport investments. Beyond FCV, a majority of African countries have significantly larger concessional financing envelopes from the World Bank under IDA18 than under IDA17 and can chose to use some of those resources to invest in sustainable mobility.

What message would the World Bank like to send to Africities 8?

Sustainable mobility can be a powerful tool to fight global poverty and climate change, but it has so far not been leveraged to its full capacity. To do this, we need a broad coalition of governments, international organizations, businesses, civil society and communities. The sector has taken the first important step with the creation of the Sustainable Mobility for All initiative, a global consortium of leading organizations committed to acting collectively to transform the sector.

The Africa Transport Policy Program has historically been at the forefront of this agenda and has redoubled its push in the last few years in tandem with SuM4All, especially under its urban transport pillar, promoting accessible, efficient, safe and green transport in Africa. The World Bank and SSATP are committed to continue to expand our close partnership with Africa to bring sustainable transport to all.