Traffic congestion, a by product of economic boom in Africa
17 March 2015, 20:11
Nairobi - Megacities across Africa have
suffered from the perennial problem of traffic congestion, a by- product of the
remarkable economic boom over the past decade.
Africa has outperformed many economies in the world in past
decade with an average growth of near 5 percent. Despite headwinds, growth is
projected to stand at 5.1 percent by 2017, lifted by infrastructure investment,
increased agriculture production, and buoyant services.
However, the economic boom has led to surging population in
megacities across the continent. The rate of construction of new roads can't
keep up with the new vehicles entering the road daily, hence the problem of
The problem, having cost greatly the affected cities, needs
to be addressed through upgrading city planning and increasing investment in
infrastructure, experts said.
In Kenya's capital city of Nairobi, the largest city in East
Africa, a majority of commuters get caught in traffic jam daily.
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Kiprono Kittony, chairman of Kenya National Chamber of
Commerce and Industry said in an interview with Xinhua that the routine traffic
jam in Nairobi can be attributed to the failure to establish an efficient and
modern transport infrastructure as the city saw population surge in past years
during the economic boom.
He added the rising middle class incomes have worsened the
challenge as more Kenyans buy cars yet the road network is not expanding fast.
A report by Kenya's Transport and Urban Decongestion
committee in 2014 said Nairobi's population has increased from 350,000 in 1963
to 3.3 million nowadays with an estimated 300,000 vehicles without a
corresponding increase of the road network.
The report said traffic congestion in Nairobi costs the
economy an estimated 37 billion Kenyan shillings (406 million U.S. dollars)
annually.Without measures to improve the traffic situation, these losses are
likely to increase drastically as the population increases to nearly double the
current numbers by 2025.
Lagos, the largest city in Nigeria with a population of more
than 21 million, is becoming notorious for its terrible traffic jam, mostly
because of limited access to the island financial hub and surging number of
cars spurred by fuel subsidies.
Report said in 2010 the number of cars had expanded to about
230,000 in Lagos. Snail-paced traffic test commuters' endurance as millions of
people cram the streets of Nigeria's economic hub on a daily basis.
Same story happens daily in other megacities in Africa like
Johannesburg of South Africa, Luanda of Angola, etc., which have seen surging
population during the past decade's remarkable economic growth and delay in
proper infrastructure construction.
Kittony said solution to traffic nightmare in megacities
lies in commuter train and high capacity buses in various routes.
"We need to create special zones for offices,
industries and bus parks to ease congestion in the city center. Authorities
should invest in new technology to enhance traffic management in the
city," he said.
World Bank senior transport specialist Justin Runji advised
African countries to invest more in the transport sector which plays an
important role in ending the extreme poverty on the continent during a recent
review of the road sector in Zambia, Kenya and Burundi.
African countries have also come to realize the importance
and emergency of traffic de-congestion in big cities with measures and plans in
Official testing of the Addis Ababa light railway in
Ethiopia was launched in February. The China-funded project has been regarded
as contribution to the transportation in Addis Ababa as well as maintaining the
goal of building carbon emission-free transport system.
To decongest the Nairobi city, Kenyan government has
announced the measures which cover the immediate, short, medium and long term
include re-designing the city's mass transport system afresh and an expansive
road building and improvement project within Nairobi and its environs.
Also prioritized for immediate action is the conversion of
roundabouts into signalized junctions, with the city's main arterial roads that
feed into the major highway.