Desmond Tutu speaks at Make Roads Safe Africa launch 

David Ward, Desmond Tutu and Ed Kok 
(l-r) David Ward, Director General, FIA Foundation, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Ed Kok, Managing Director, AA of South Africa

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called on political leaders and the G8 to take action on road safety at the African launch of the Make Roads Safe campaign in Cape Town.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner joined local schoolchildren to sign the Make Roads Safe petition and issued a strong warning on the need to avoid fatalism and complacency in tackling global road deaths. “Here in South Africa, there are moments when we come to accept the statistics. Each time there is a holiday like Christmas or Easter we sigh with relief because there’s maybe two less people dead than the previous year. When there are 300 people dead we are no longer appalled”, Archbishop Tutu said. He went on to draw an analogy between the struggle against apartheid and the campaign for global road safety – describing both as a fight for social justice.

The Archbishop was opening the Make Roads Safe Africa conference at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, hosted by the AA of South Africa. The conference took place during the FIA Conference Week, which brings together automobile clubs from across the world, and included road safety NGOs and campaigners from across Africa. Other speakers at the conference included Robert Okello, Director of Regional Integration for the UN Economic Commission for Africa; David Njoroge, Member for Africa of the Commission for Global Road Safety; and Olive Kobusingye, Injury Adviser at the WHO Regional Office for Africa. Also speaking was Zambian road safety campaigner Precious Mumbi, the reigning Miss Zambia, who has used her position as a platform to campaign for safer road design.

The conference also heard the announcement of a new African Road Assessment Programme which aims to measure the safety of African roads. The programme will be based on a pilot study run in South Africa run by the AA of South Africa and the German auto club ADAC and has the support of automobile clubs across Africa. John Dawson, Chairman of the International Road Assessment Programme said: "We need to identify the high risk roads across Africa. We must steer aid towards the roads where people are dying in large numbers just because there are no footpaths, safe crossing points or safety fences”.

In a media statement issued before the conference, Archbishop Tutu said “road deaths and injuries are becoming a new health emergency for Africa. The human and economic cost is growing. I call on the leaders of the G8 to heed the request of African transport and health ministers, to ensure that safety is at the heart of international road investment. Protecting the poorest and most vulnerable road users in our communities must be the first priority”.

Click here to see Desmond Tutu speaking at the Make Roads Safe Africa launch >