The Host, Miss Funmi Ajala began the session by welcoming the guest, Miss Nekesa Masibo after which she introduced herself. She is a civil engineer and a road safety advocate in Kenya and she is currently pursuing a Masters in Transportation Sciences. The topic for discussion was: Building Back Better in this Decade of Action: Sustainable Transport in Focus.
In commencing, the host inquired on the current transportation system in Kenya, which Nekesa responded to include taxis, motorcycles and pedestrian use, which is the norm in several African countries. She stated that cycling is a very sustainable system and hopes to see more people indulging in it. This leading to the question of what one considers to be sustainable transportation in this decade of action? On this Nekesa believes it must be a system that is safe and accessible to the majority of the people, not causing harm to the environment, and it has low carbon emission. She would like to see an all-inclusive system of transport that incorporate all classes of people and links all forms of transport together.
On the question of what strategies are currently in place towards achieving sustainable transportation and its effectiveness so far. She stated that even though we are not there yet, people are making effort, like the Tanzanian BRT system, which can be a good role model for other countries. Also, in Kenya, there is a pilot project for electrifying Matatu, which are mini-buses and electrification of motorcycles. She believes the private sectors are doing much better than the public sector. She believes this is a start and we would get there.
On the electrifying transportation, the host made a point that, in the African setting where the majority of countries do not have a consistent electricity supply, how then can one generate enough electricity for the transportation sector. This leading to the next question – the role of renewable energy towards achieving sustainable transport? The guest referred to Kenya, which uses solar energy to power cargo bikes, by switching out batteries similar to one buying gas to power their vehicles. She stated this is a very good way to make electrifying possible. And on the scale of affordability of these initiatives, she stated that some are being funded, but scaling up would be the main issue as more funds would be required.
Concerning the SDGs, how would this impact sustainable transport, especially goal 3 and 15? On this, she mentioned that moving to zero carbon is impact positively on the health of people and transportation in cities. Cycling is a good way to go and more people should indulge in this. Safer infrastructure in transportation would highly reduce the deaths caused by transportation systems, as Africa has a higher level of deaths as a result of this.
Consequently, to the above, the topic of who would be the main stakeholders to be engaged would arise. Nekesa emphasized here that everyone is a stakeholder and citizens have a right to demand better forms of transportation. But also, stakeholders would depend on the form of transport one is concerned with. For example, energy providers would be a major stakeholder for the electrifying transport systems. More so, the government is a stakeholder all-round. How can engage them? For the government, she believes that they respond to noise, that one must build interest in the subject matter, as this would get them moving on the matter. The host commented that influence plays a huge role in policy advocacy and that policymakers need to buy into the vision to drive it forward. Nekesa responded, stating that even if you cannot find a person that has the same vision, you can find one that wants the same outcome, so having commonalities go a long way too.
How then can we have sustainable transportation that will generate funds for economic development? In responding, she went back to electrification, that from its inception, there would be the creation of jobs, hence boosting the economy, there would be access to education and access to other opportunities. In investing in sustainable transport, you are investing in people. Also, notwithstanding the need to boost the economy, one should not do away with the conventional means of transport like cycling and walking, as these still have major benefits. So, a synergy should be developed. The host believes that to also boost economic development, transport systems owned by the government should be very convenient for people, as they would value this more and may not consider the price so far it is reasonable. She gave the example of the railway in Nigeria, which goes from Lagos to Ibadan. This the guest agreed to and stated that private sectors can truly leverage on this, improving the systems.
As it relates to countries currently practising sustainable transport and what can other countries learn from. She stated that there is no perfect system, but some countries have good systems, but the people pay for this in terms of high taxes, that burden is on them. Thereby contributing to the system and the money gotten, is used to develop the systems.
On the issue of Covid-19 Pandemic, how we ensure social distancing while using transportation systems? Nekesa mentioned the use of Filtration systems in public transport are currently being considered in some countries, but this system is not currently available in many African countries. But there has been a large drop in transportation systems because of the current Pandemic and research has been ongoing on how to regain consumer trust for transportation systems. On the issue of transportation increase, due to the necessary reduction of passengers in transport systems, how can that be reconciled with pay cuts or several people losing their jobs. On this, she responded that there needs to be a restructuring of the business model of transportation systems, as this would go a long way and government intervention is also needed, maybe through subsidies.
On the issue of the unregulated nature of the transportation industry, this subsequently affects the pricing of fares, as it can easily be changed, especially when factors such as weather or traffic variables are present. So, there needs to be some form of regulation to moderate the prices or the private sector stepping in to the industry, would create healthy competition, ensuring the maintenance of prices.
In conclusion, she discussed the recommendation to the government, private sector, NGO’s and individual towards achieving sustainable transport? Nekesa stated that we all need aligned goals, have a vision of what we need to happen, and agree, synergizing all forms of transport. She stated that having safe transportation is very vital for citizens to feel safe and secured. The host believes there should be re-training of transport workers and ensuring that all transport signs are placed in necessary places.