Every year, road crashes are estimated to claim over 300,000 lives in Africa. According to WHO, the African region has 2 per cent of the world’s registered vehicles but a disproportionate 16 per cent of the world’s road traffic deaths. Road traffic fatalities are estimated to be the fourth leading cause of death of persons aged 5 through 44 years.
To share experience in improving road safety, over 100 participants representing nearly 20 African Government Ministries of Infrastructure/Transport, National Road Safety Authorities and Councils, African sub-regional and regional organizations, international organizations, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), academic and research institutions, and the private sector are attending a 2-day workshop on Road Safety and Urban Mobility in Accra, Ghana.
The workshop was inspired by the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety, Mr. Jean Todt, and former UN Secretary-General Mr. Kofi Annan, who had intended to participate in the meeting before his sudden illness caused him to cancel his trip to Ghana. The meeting on Monday began with a moment of silence in respect for Mr. Annan and in sympathy with his family at his recent passing.
“I shared with him the plight this great continent faces in terms of road safety and he, as expected, was ready to help make a difference… I am honored to carry on his legacy through the outcomes of this workshop and in our continued work towards improved road safety in his country and region” says Mr. Todt on Mr. Kofi Annan’s desire to end road deaths in Africa.
The workshop underscored the linkages between growing urbanization and expected rise in the number of road traffic fatalities in the region. It was opened by Mr. Todt, Ghana’s Minister of Transport, Hon. Kwaku Ofori Asiamah, and the World Bank Country Director, Mr. Henry Kerali. Mr. Todt was appointed Special Envoy for Road Safety in 2015 and is also the President of the International Automobile Federation (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA).
Participants at the workshop are assessing how to better integrate safe urban mobility within existing road safety frameworks and discussing how to incorporate road safety into urban planning and infrastructure development process. They are sharing good practices, evidence-based solutions, progress and challenges, considering the UN road transport and road safety related legal instruments, in support of the achievement of SDG targets 11.2 and 3.6.
Of the 1.3 million road traffic fatalities every year globally, more than half are accounted for in urban areas. Road traffic fatalities are estimated to be the fourth leading cause of death globally of persons aged 5 through 44 years. There are a number of issues that affect the road safety situation in a country, including quality of road infrastructure, level of law enforcement, safety of vehicles, road user behaviors and post-crash care. In the urban area, it is critical to address the safety of vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists, children and motorcyclists.
According to Hon. Ofori Asiamah, “[road safety] deficiencies suppress the socio-economic benefits we have derived from the investment made in the provision of urban transport infrastructure and services”.
Ms. Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, Addis Ababa, highlighted that safety needs to be “built into” infrastructure investment, as this is far less costly than retrofitting roads afterwards to be safer.
In addition to physical infrastructure, the UN Resident Coordinator for Ghana, Ms. Christine Evans-Klock, emphasized the need to improve coordination among government agencies, to reduce corruption, and to enforce existing safety regulations and traffic laws. She also suggested that the most significant sign of respect from the regional workshop to the former UN Secretary-General would be “the seriousness with which we take up this life-and-death topic and the commitments we follow through to improve road safety and urban development.”
The regional workshop, hosted by the Government of Ghana is designed to support Governments in meeting their commitments to implement the Sustainable Development Goals. Reducing road fatalities is a specific target under Goal 3 to improve health and well-being, and improving access to safe transport systems is a specific target under Goal 11 to ensure inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities.
As partners of the workshop, the Secretariat of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the Africa Transport Policy Program (SSATP), and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) will continue to work with African governments to address the challenge of road safety and urban mobility.