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African policymakers urged to make 30 km/h streets the norm to save lives

20 May, 2021
African policymakers urged to make 30 km/h streets the norm to save lives

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, May 20, 2021 (ECA) – An African Union Commission and Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) workshop organized to validate the African Road Safety Action Plan for the Decade 2021-2030 by experts, on Thursday called on African policymakers to support the UN campaign launched at the beginning of the 6th UN Global Road Safety Week to make 30 km/h streets the norm for cities worldwide.

The campaign stresses that low speed streets save lives and are the heart of any community. 30 km/h (20 mph) speed limits where people and traffic mix make for streets that are safe, healthy, green and liveable, in other words, streets for life.

The 6th UN Global Road Safety Week is calling on policymakers to act for low speed streets worldwide, limiting speeds to where people walk, live and play. The campaign stresses that 30 km/h streets protect all who use them, but especially the most vulnerable, like pedestrians, cyclists, children and older people and people with disabilities, preventing road traffic deaths and promoting physical activity.

Besides promoting safe walking and cycling, 30 km/h streets are vital in efforts to shift to zero-carbon mobility, reducing car dependency and harmful vehicle emissions that contribute to climate change. To protect the environment, people need safe, low-speed streets that encourage sustainable transport choices, the campaign adds.

In opening remarks to the continental workshop on road safety on the theme, overcoming the challenge of halving road deaths by 2030, William Lugemwa, Director of the ECA’s Private Sector Development and Finance Division, said while several good practices to improve road safety on the continent have been identified, many countries still had to take significant action to implement activities across pillars of the continent’s Action Plan to reduce carnage on the streets. This includes;

  • Setting road safety targets;
  • Allocating resources to road safety – both human and financial;
  • Building capacity for Road Safety Data Management;
  • Prioritizing road safety audits and inspections;
  • Undertaking rigorous assessment of the safety of vehicles; and
  • Putting in place and enforcing legal instruments that address various risk factors.

“The bottom line is that Africa continues to have the most dangerous roads in the world, with the risk of death from road traffic injury being highest on the continent,” said Mr. Lugemwa.

He said road safety was now recognized as a development issue and included in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adding it was also an integral part of the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Norms and Standards of the Trans-African Highways.

“As we finalize the continental action plan and develop national plans, we should bear in mind the need to align them with the African Union’s Agenda 2063,” said Mr. Lugemwa.

Member States were encouraged to ratify the African Road Safety Charter. Namibia is the only country on the continent that has ratified the Charter so far.

The workshop also sought to align Africa’s plan with the Global Action Plan for the Second UN Road Safety Decade. The World Health Organization updated the workshop on the global plan.

“African countries must take the lead in improving the safety of their roads. In doing so, they should share experiences among themselves as good practice exist on the continent. They should also harness the opportunities offered by development partners,” Mr. Lugemwa said.

He said there was also scope to strengthen private sector involvement in road safety in Africa.

“To that end, we should explore ways of bringing together public and private entities in platforms that enable them to make road safety commitments, and create communities in which members can share their expertise and actions, as well as inspire and learn from each other,” the ECA Director said.

Digitalization, he added, offered opportunities for road safety in Africa. It is envisaged that countries will increasingly use new technology and decision-support systems in managing road safety on the continent.

“This is critical as lack of comprehensive, accurate and updated data constitutes a major hurdle to evidence-base decision making on road safety in Africa. IT systems could help overcome this hurdle,” Mr. Lugemwa said.

The meeting also provided Africa’s policymakers and road safety experts an opportunity to discuss how the continent can sustain road safety gains scored since 2011, how to implement activities in areas where it is lagging behind and how to take on board emerging issues that have implications on the safety of its roads.

Mr. Lugemwa assured member States the ECA will continue to support them in addressing these issues and will work with partners to save lives on Africa’s roads.

Despite efforts at the global and African continental levels, road safety remains a major challenge in Africa where the risk of death from road traffic injury is as high as 26.6 per 100,000 compared to 17.0 in South-East Asia and 9.3 per 100,000 people in Europe. In Uganda, road crash fatalities rose by 25.9% from 2,597 to 3,503 between 2007 and 2016; 10 people are killed per day in road traffic crashes, the highest in East Africa; and 24 people are killed per 100 road crashes in the country. In Cameroon, 16,583 road crashes and 1500 deaths are recorded on average each year; and the risk of road death per 100,000 people is estimated by WHO at 27.


Issued by:

Communications Section

Economic Commission for Africa

PO Box 3001

Addis Ababa


Tel: +251 11 551 5826