Successful international investment banker, Dr Álvaro Sobrinho, has laid out a plan for improving African urban transport and boosting economic growth in the continent’s cities. The rapid urbanisation of Africa, he argues, means investment is required in transportation if African cities are to become drivers of growth and development.
Over the next 30 years, Africa’s urban population is set to swell by more than 200%. To cope with the huge increase in residents, Africa’s cities will need modern, efficient and affordable transportation. Taxis and minibuses will not suffice to meet the growing demand in a dependable way.
But making transport affordable and efficient is only one side of the story, according to Dr Álvaro Sobrinho. The new transport links must also reduce carbon emissions through energy efficiency and the utilisation of renewables. This will reduce Africa’s contribution to global green house gas emissions from transport – which currently accounts for around 15% of all emissions – and could lead to greater energy independence, as Africa boasts a huge reservoir of renewable energy.
A clean and green transport system will also improve life spans in urban areas; currently more than 700,000 people per year die prematurely as a result of air pollution. Removing dirty diesel engines from the roads would be a first step, building high-speed electric rail powered by solar farms and wind-turbines would be the ultimate goal.
To achieve this target, Álvaro Sobrinho advocates the involvement of the private sector, which he believes has the resources and technological know-how to achieve the desired outcome. In particular, the lack of necessary skills in the workforce can only be overcome by the private sector, argues Sobrinho, which has the “resources and expertise” to “help African cities equip their youth with the skills needed to deliver high quality and sustainable transport infrastructure”.
Rapid action must be taken if the necessary changes are to be realised and African transport is to become a viable investment in the future.