- Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
- Stakeholder type: Major Group
- Submission Document: Download
- Additional Document:
Rio+20: Improving Urban Development in Africa, for
Environment, Safety and Accessibility
A submission to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development by the UNEP ?Share the
Road? Initiative and Amend
Rob de Jong, Head of Transport, UNEP and Tom Bishop, Africa Director of Amend
UNEP?s Share the Road initiative and Amend recognise the natural confluence of safe roads
and sustainable transport. We are both working in Sub-Saharan Africa to improve nonmotorised
transport, to make cities safer, to reduce pollution and to increase accessibility.
Share the Road is an initiative led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to
promote policies in government and donor agencies for systematic investments in walking
and cycling road infrastructure, integrated with mass transit systems.
Amend is an NGO operating in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the objective of reducing the
number of children killed and injured on the roads.
We welcome Rio+20 as an important opportunity to highlight a cost-effective solution to
many of the most urgent problems associated with road development in urban Africa ?
increased investments in walking and cycling infrastructure.
This submission details our contribution to the Compilation Document, which will serve as
basis for the preparation of the Rio+20 Outcome Document. It focuses on the sectoral priority
of sustainable urbanisation, through the development of non-motorised transport
infrastructure, which will also contribute to a green economy and poverty reduction.
A Cost-Effective Solution to Some Major Global Problems
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), globally more than 1.3 million people
are killed every year due to urban outdoor air pollution. Up to 90% of this air pollution comes
from the emissions of motor vehicles, and road transport is the fastest-growing sector for
greenhouse gas emissions. WHO statistics also show that more than 1.2 million fatalities and
50 million serious injuries are caused each year by road crashes. 90% of these fatalities occur
in low- and middle-income countries where pedestrians and cyclists make up the majority of
people killed or injured.
Investing in road infrastructure for walking and cycling leads to massive benefits in
environment, safety and accessibility. It reduces emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse
gases, protects vulnerable road users and income earning adults from high-speed motor
traffic, and increases affordable access to vital services and employment.
Roads for Some versus Roads for All
Sub-Saharan Africa has the most dangerous roads in the world, with a road fatality rate of
28.3 per 100,000 people. Despite the fact that millions of lives could be saved and pollution
and poverty could be reduced, urban development in Africa continues to benefit the carowning
minority, at the cost of the majority who walk, cycle and use public transport. The
majority have lost their place on the roads. Pedestrians and cyclists - users of the most
healthy, clean and resource-efficient forms of transport - have been pushed out to make way
for bigger roads and bigger vehicles. They are now the group of road users most at risk of
death and injury through crashes and health problems related to pollution.
Saving lives will help to reduce poverty, as so often those who are killed and injured are
young adults and children. The death or disability of a breadwinner can push a family deeper
into poverty, and a sick or injured child will suffer through absence from school while at the
same time costing the family in medical fees. In addition, the healthcare costs from urban air
pollution are estimated to cost up to 5% of GDP in developing countries.
The Cost of Inaction
Sub-Saharan Africa has an average GDP growth rate of 5.1%, which should mean ample
domestic and foreign investments in sustainable road infrastructure. Without such
investments, road fatalities in 2020 will be 80% higher than now. The problem in urban areas
will be amplified due to the fact that more than 300 million residents will be added to
Africa?s cities in the next 25 years. The majority of these rural to urban migrants will rely on
the most affordable and accessible modes of transport ? walking and cycling ? for which
minuscule investments are currently made.
In addition to the exponential rates of urbanization, the population of Africa will grow by
more than a billion people by 2050. Africa?s rate of motorization is one of the fastest in the
world, with thousands of cars added to the roads every day. Globally, the number of private
motor vehicles is forecast to triple by 2050. Two-thirds of this explosive growth will take
place in non-OECD countries such as those in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Change is Possible
There are ways to drastically reduce the forecast congestion, pollution, and deaths and
injuries, while at the same time bridging the gap between the rich and poor. This solution is
to build cities that thrive on integrated, multi-modal transport systems. In modern, green and
efficient systems, non-motorised transport will be at the core of mobility planning and
The critical change needed at the level of decision-makers in government and donor agencies
is to systematically allocate funds for walking and cycling infrastructure in all urban transport
investments. Even a small proportion of funds would go a long way in making investments
more accountable and beneficial to the majority of the population, instead of only benefiting
the car-using minority. In turn, such investments will support governments in meeting the
overarching goal of poverty reduction, as envisaged in the Millennium Development Goals.
There have been successes in Africa, through both the Share the Road initiative and the work
of Amend. For example, the Kenyan government has enacted a policy change whereby
walking and cycling facilities are incorporated into its urban road designs. There are also
positive developments in Uganda and Rwanda, and in Tanzania where Amend is working to
improve the walk to school for tens of thousands of school children. But more needs to be
done in these countries as well as the whole of Africa.
The focus of Rio+20 is green economy in the context of poverty eradication and sustainable
development. The international community would be hard-pressed to ignore the rationale
and feasibility of increasing investments in walking and cycling on Africa?s roads. The
hundreds of millions of people moving around our cities by foot or bicycle, going to school
and work, going to meet friends and family, at great undue risk to their lives. They deserve a
strong call for action on this occasion of Rio+20.