The fitting slogan for Africa regarding most countries’ public transport systems would be.. “Arrive alive”. However, things do seem to be looking up now, with most governments prioritizing public transport. This is very important for the economy as it facilitates the movement of workers from home to work and vice versa. There are many forms of transport, but road transport seems to be the most viable option for most people. This is facilitated by many factors, but chief among them is that roads can penetrate even to the interiors, the remotest parts of the country. For example, Johannesburg, with its three wheeled taxis that can go through the narrowest of alleys, Nairobi with its tuktuks and so on, there is hope for this great continent.
What ails public transport in Africa? There are many things, but chief among them is that the governments of the day, save for South Africa and several others, do not seem to regard public transport with the seriousness that it deserves. For example, in Kenya, except for the National carrier Kenya Airways where the government is a shareholder, there seems to be no involvement at all in road transport. This has left the entire sector to private providers, but how does that work for the masses?
How can the transport system be improved?
More government involvement – This is very important, and it could also be a good source of income for the government. How? The government can sell franchises to individuals who could in turn provide good services to the people in the name of the government. This seems to be what is happening in South Africa, as recently, President Zuma made surprise visits to various public transport sections to assess the standards of the same and promised that the government would enhance the public transport sector. Now, we are waiting to see what will be implemented.
Replace vans with buses – Seriously… the vans on our roads are decrepit and they are an eyesore. They can hardly carry more than 10 passengers and it is time they were phased out completely, to be replaced with higher capacity buses. That way, there will be lesser traffic snarl ups, and there will be more decorum on our roads.
Maximize the use of public transport systems – This is not news anyway, because our governments have been cajoling people to use public transport as opposed to using their own cars. The reasoning behind this is that if a bus can carry 60 passengers, that means there will be 59 fewer vehicles on the roads! A great way to reduce the traffic jams. However, how can the government encourage people to leave their cars at home and use public transport? By streamlining the operations of the rail systems, roads and integrating the taxis services into the bigger public transport picture.
Can this be done? Of course. It is easy, it is possible and it just requires a bit of determination form the government. For example, consider the Gautrain system that transports close to 60,000 passengers daily. In addition, more than 20,000 passengers ride in buses every day.