UN Conference reviews African road safety progress

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The conference was hosted by the UN and the World Bank’s African transport programme
The conference was hosted by the UN and the World Bank’s African transport programme
More than 20 governments participated in the 3rd African Road Safety Conference
More than 20 governments participated in the 3rd African Road Safety Conference
The FIA Foundation’s Saul Billingsley discussed the charity’s work in Africa
The FIA Foundation’s Saul Billingsley discussed the charity’s work in Africa

More than 20 African governments have met in Addis Ababa to review progress in meeting the goal of the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety, and to prepare for delivering road safety targets in the Sustainable Development Goals.

Preparations for the forthcoming 2nd Global High Level Conference on Road Safety, to be held in Brasilia in November, were high on the agenda at the 3rd African Road Safety Conference, as African governments discussed a common position on priorities for the post-2015 period. The meeting also received a report from the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) on the status of efforts across the continent to implement the recommendations of the UN Global Plan for the Decade of Action. The UNECA review found a widely divergent range of performance, and in particular a lack of institutional capacity to tackle Africa’s road traffic injury problems. Despite having relatively low levels of motorisation, Africa suffers from the highest rate of people killed on the roads, proportional to population. The rate of child deaths is double that of the next worst region, South East Asia.

Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa are the “top three performers among 23 countries” in accomplishing the activities of the African Road Safety Action Plan according to the UNECA report. Although progress is being made, performance of the Plan based on five pillars (road safety management; mobility; vehicles; road users; and post-crash response) has been varying with some countries performing well in some pillars but failing in others. Around 40% of countries are in the process of implementing more road safety management activities and yet more than 30% have not taken significant action to harmonise data formats and use international standards in reporting. Due to these differences in performance and ability, Mr. Stephen Karingi, Director of Regional Trade and Integration at UNECA, encouraged conference participants to “be pragmatic in proposing a road map for action.”

Hosted at UNECA’s headquarters in the Ethiopian capital on 9 & 10th July 2015, the Decade of Action mid-term review conference brought together African governments and NGOs, together with the African Union, the World Health Organization, the World Bank Global Road Safety Facility, the World Bank’s Sub-Saharan Africa Transport Programme (SSATP), the New Economic Partnership for Africa (NEPAD), the African Development Bank, the UN Economic Commission for Europe and non-governmental organisations including the Global Road Safety Partnership, the International Road Federation, the International Road Assessment Programme (iRAP), Amend, South Africans against Drink Driving (SADD) and the FIA Foundation. The meeting was addressed by Ethiopia’s Minister of Transport and, via video, by the new UN Special Envoy for Road Safety Jean Todt. Key issues on the agenda included data management, regional catalytic funding for road safety, road infrastructure safety and efforts to tackle drink-driving.

Improving road safety in Africa’s cities was the theme of a presentation by the FIA Foundation’s director, Saul Billingsley. Highlighting the workplan of the African Sustainable Transport Forum and citing a new report by the African Progress Panel, he argued that a projected doubling in the population of many African cites, combined with a youth demographic bulge and increased motorisation made safe and sustainable transport a priority for Africa’s policymakers. The FIA Foundation is working with UN Environment to support non-motorised transport infrastructure and policies in East Africa, partnering with UNICEF to promote advocacy for safe routes to school and lower urban speed limits, and supporting pilot projects to improve safety for children walking and cycling to school in South Africa and Tanzania. Saul Billingsley also updated delegates on the latest negotiations on the road safety targets in the SDGs and encouraged African countries and organisations to support the #SaveKidsLives campaign ahead of the Brasilia Ministerial.

Saul Billingsley said: “The commitment to road safety of the government representatives present at this conference is impressive, the efforts on the ground as reported by UNECA less so. African countries are grappling with many social, health and economic issues so it is understandable that road traffic injury prevention is not yet a priority for many. But the available data and future projections show that Africa has the world’s most dangerous roads, that road traffic crashes are already killing more than 200,000 Africans and severely injuring at least a million more every year, and as economic development and accompanying motorisation gather pace the situation is set to deteriorate. So now is the time to at last follow up the many words in the many African communiques and action plans with serious and coordinated action. The Brasilia Conference and the inclusion of road safety in the SDGs can and must mark a step-change in response.”