August 27, 2023

Sustainable Cities through Transport: Improving financing mechanisms and institutional capacity

Conference delegates at Sheger park, Addis Ababa

Africa’s cities are undergoing a profound transformation, driven by a pressing need to cater for the continent’s rapidly urbanising population. Cities around the continent are embracing forward-looking urban planning and sustainable public transport solutions to meet this escalating demand. Yet, this endeavour is no small feat. Governments find themselves in a challenging conundrum, contending with the vast gap between the infrastructure required and the available resources. Complicating matters further are the global surge in inflation and mounting fiscal uncertainties. Another layer of complexity lies in the unfinished business of restructuring governance to promote devolution and the financial independence of urban local bodies. Robust governance is critical to the seamless implementation and operational success of modern mass rapid transit systems and the integration of urban infrastructure.

To address challenges and opportunities in implementing sustainable transport in African cities, the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), International Climate Initiative (IKI), African Development Bank (AfDB), United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), UN Environment Programme, and United Nations Road Safety Fund organised a conference under the theme Sustainable Cities through Transport: Improving Financing Mechanisms and Institutional Capacity. The conference took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 9-10 Aug 2023 and involved participants from 11 countries, including Burundi, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Guinea, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Mozambique, and Nigeria.

H.E. Berio Hassan, the State Minister, Ministry of Transport and Logistics, Ethiopia, opened the conference, outlining key achievements including the implementation of 46 km of cycle tracks and 40 km of wide sidewalks in the capital, Addis Ababa. In addition, he mentioned that secondary cities have constructed over 80 km of footpaths and 36.5 km of cycle tracks with support from the federal government and development banks. Addis Ababa has secured financing for two out of fifteen planned BRT corridors, and construction is ongoing for the B2 BRT corridor.

Babati Mokgethi, Senior Urban Development Specialist from AfDB, gave introductory remarks, outlining the Bank’s support in ensuring cities are efficient and integrated. He emphasised the importance of a holistic approach to mobility planning, ensuring that urban streets facilitate efficient mobility, social interaction, and safe access for users of all ages, genders, and abilities. He noted that cities need to offer financially viable solutions that give people alternatives to the use of private vehicles. AfDB is working on urban infrastructure projects including the Sheger Riverside Redevelopment in Addis Ababa; the USD 159.3 m Dar es Salaam BRT phase 2; non-motorised transport (NMT) and junction improvements in Kigali; and an urban roads rehabilitation project in Kampala. The bank is also engaging governments to discuss plans for additional urban development projects across the continent.


Chris Kost from ITDP highlighted the advantages of investing in sustainable transport for Africa’s largest cities based on the Why Infrastructure Matters study. Under the status quo, increased private vehicle use will lead to wider roads, higher costs, more accidents, and greater emissions in cities. By focusing on active mobility and public transport, cities can save USD 109 billion in avoided expenditures on fuel, reduce crash fatalities by 63 percent, lower infrastructure costs by 43 percent, and decrease carbon emissions by 63 percent.

Kicking off the session on planning and implementing safe and efficient public transport, Dr Edwin Mhede, Chief Executive of the Dar Rapid Transit Agency (DART) outlined the need for strong governance and political commitment. Dar es Salaam’s experience in operating the 20.9 km first phase of the BRT and the ongoing expansion and financing of phases 2, 3, 4, and 5 offered learning opportunities on the need for robust institutional capacity for the public transport authorities to fulfil their mandates. Representatives from Addis Ababa, Nairobi, and Kampala also presented ongoing BRT plans in the respective cities.

Bus sector modernisation is key in ensuring inclusive and equitable access to transport systems. Most cities in the region have a below-average representation of women in the transport sector, both in government and private sector. As the industry modernises, there is a need to ensure women are included in the process. To address the inclusion challenges, representatives from the City of Kigali, DART, the Nairobi Metropolitan Transport Authority (NaMATA) and the Kenya Urban Roads Authority (KURA) outlined ongoing initiatives to involve women in the public transport industry transition process and develop streets that are inclusive of all users, including women, children, and persons with disabilities. ITDP presented a study on Gender equity in Cairo’s greater public transport system. Based on feedback from female public transport users, Cairo’s BRT plans aim to ensure improved accessibility through comfortable walking and cycling facilities; safe and accessible stations; adequate planning to reduce crowding on buses; and mixed-use development to ensure security on the streets.

To tackle public transport financing issues head-on, AfDB, the World Bank, the European Investment Bank (EIB), and government officials from Ghana and Mombasa engaged in a focused dialogue. AfDB’s ten-year strategy spotlights inclusive and green growth, demonstrated through financing for urban transport projects across Africa. EIB emphasised climate action and better livelihoods, pointing to the bank’s ongoing backing of the fully electric BRT Line 3 project in Nairobi. The World Bank showcased plans for equitable and sustainable transport upgrades in Nairobi and Kigali, spanning dedicated lanes, bus terminals, and commuter rail connectivity.


The second day of the conference focused on improving NMT to improve equity and accessibility in cities. Janene Tuniz from UN Environment highlighted the challenges faced in African cities in terms of walking and cycling environments and introduced the Pan African Action Plan for Active Mobility (PAAPAM), which aims to create better walking and cycling environments, protect people, and improve access to public transport. PAAPAM aims to consolidate efforts on NMT in the region by defining common priorities, encouraging financial investments, promoting dialogue and knowledge sharing, and identifying key indicators to track progress.

Fetiya Degdeba from the Road Safety and Insurance Fund Service in Ethiopia discussed the concept of complete streets, inclusivity, and community-driven development. She recounted the evolution of NMT planning in Ethiopia, including the adoption of the Addis Ababa NMT Strategy, which involved allocation of city funding to active mobility infrastructure. After successful implementation, with noticeable ongoing results, the federal government adopted a national NMT Strategy, leading to an increase in walking and cycling investments in secondary cities. The session included the soft launch of the Ethiopia Street Design Manual, which aims to harmonise guidelines and standards across the country and facilitate the design of streets that serve all users, including pedestrians, cyclists, public transport passengers, motorists, and freight.

Delegates engaged in a thought-provoking panel discussion on the financing of public spaces in African cities. The panellists included representatives from Nairobi City County, the Tanzania Rural and Urban Roads Agency (TARURA), City of Quelimane, City of Kisumu, and City of Kigali. Dr Manuel de Araujo, the Mayor of Quelimane City, shared insights into the financing of public spaces in Mozambique and discussed the political and financial challenges in spearheading the shift to cycling. Quelimane, located in northern Mozambique, has successfully built a cycling culture by constructing the first protected bike lane in the country. The mayor himself promotes cycling, encouraging visiting dignitaries to explore the city by cycle and facilitating livelihoods for 4,000 young people who work as bicycle taxi drivers.


Solving existing urban transport challenges also requires an integrated approach to urban planning. Cities in the region are working towards urban planning policies that link transport investments and zoning regulations to provide access and efficiency. In a panel on integrated urban planning and transit-oriented development (TOD) financing through land value capture, Eng Njenga, Secretary, Urban and Metropolitan Development, Ministry of Lands, Public Works, Housing, and Urban Development, presented on how the government of Kenya is planning affordable housing projects at transport nodes. Eng Kuganda from DART outlined ongoing policy work to lay the groundwork for TOD implementation along the BRT corridors in Dar es Salaam. Babati Mokgethi from AfDB presented opportunities for land value capture and green bonds to finance urban and transport improvements in addition to funding from development banks.

During the 2-day conference, participants had an opportunity to visit different mobility projects in Addis Ababa. During the first day, participants visited the Sheger Riverside development, a greenway along the rivers of Addis Ababa. The project is partly funded by AfDB and aims to provide access to public transport modes and connectivity to the city’s NMT network. In addition to improving the environment and liveability, the initiative is expected to improve local real estate values and revenue generation in the area. During the second day, participants visited Churchill Avenue, a multimodal corridor with wide walkways, a bidirectional cycle track, and a mix of adjoining land uses. Street activity is encouraged by street furniture and the inclusion of trees. To increase the available space for walking, the government negotiated with property owners to open up the lower floors of buildings to create arcades. The project has resulted in a more conducive walking and cycling experience and has spurred business for restaurants and shops.

Participants cycling along Churchill avenue during one of the site visits.

The conference proved to be a valuable platform for delegates to shape strategies and reimagine project execution. Government representatives used the opportunity to refine project plans, and multilateral development banks committed to working with stakeholders to offer technical and financial support in project preparation and implementation. Agencies are also considering new approaches to public-private partnerships and local revenue generation through land value capture and green bonds to buffer existing economic conditions. This approach will help hasten needed investments in sustainable urban mobility projects, fostering a promising path forward.


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