The primary way cities foster connections between people, their residences, and their places of work is through managed density or by creating connectivity through the provision of transportation. Yet, as is the case in many African cities, the opposite is happening as cities are sprawling, but without the commensurate investments by governments in public transportation networks and services. The World Bank has played, and continues to play, a major role in shaping the public transportation landscape of African cities. This spans from having played a significant role in the decline of public transportation systems across the continent through the structural adjustment programmes that were promoted in many African countries in the 1980s and 1990s, to now having a central role in many of the Bus Rapid Transport projects and other urban transportation plans across the continent. The World Bank is increasingly advocating for privatisation and public private partnerships for the establishment of new transport systems. However, the focus on profitability defies the concept of transport as a public good and as a necessity to realise the right of the population to equally participate in social, political and economic life of the city.
The author explores the complex transport systems of African cities and recommends a gradual transition of the current structures, involving all current stakeholders, particularly the (largely informal) transport workers to address the current deficiencies to move to a just public transport system, that is not tailored for profitability but as a public good that serves the citizens.
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