In full demographic growth, African megacities face the need for public transport

In Lagos, Tade Balogun must plan his trips well in advance to avoid the ordeal of waiting hours in monstrous traffic jams that paralyze the city of 20 million people with almost non-existent public services. Every day he leaves for work before dawn, finishes his day, and waits until 9 p.m. to avoid the monstrous “go slow” made up of thousands of cars and trucks on damaged roads where street vendors weave their way dangerously between the lanes.

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Like this consultant in Nigeria’s economic capital, many in Africa have to deal with the absence or inefficiency of public transport that local authorities are trying to develop, a huge but vital challenge at a time when the continent faces growing urbanization and a population explosion. According to the United Nations, the planet will soon have 8 billion people. At the end of the century, the three most populous cities in the world will be African.

Lagos, already one of the most moving cities on the continent, will become the most populous in the world by 2100, according to a study. How it will manage this population explosion could inspire other African megacities, such as Kinshasa or Dar es Salaam, which will complete the podium of the world’s most populous cities in 2100. Lagos State says it has ambitious plans – which skeptics call What “capricious” – in particular the creation of a new airport and a public transport network (trains, buses, ferries).

But how to integrate the vast informal transport networks on which millions of people depend? How to provide housing and electricity? As many questions asked by urban planners as the challenges are immense. Carrying out a census would be a first step, complicated by the number of informal settlements, explains Muyiwa Agunbiade, professor of urban development at the University of Lagos: “If you don’t know the number of inhabitants, it is difficult for us to plan. »

Dar es Salaam’s population will double by 2030

The Institute of Global Cities at the University of Toronto estimates that the three most populous cities in the world by 2025 will be located in Asia: Tokyo, Mumbai and Delhi. Little by little, African cities will take over. Last month, Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan warned of the challenges posed by this rampant demographic, the population of Dar es Salaam, the economic capital, is expected to double to 10 million by 2030.

For its part, Lagos, one of the main economies of West Africa, should house 88 million inhabitants in just eighty years, more than the current population of Germany. “For the economy of any city to prosper, its transport system must be adequate and efficient”Abimbola Akinajo, director of the Lagos State transport authority, insists to AFP: “That’s a big part of what we need to put in place for the city to function properly. »

Also read: Air pollution, a “silent killer” in African cities

But some neighborhoods are turning into a chaotic mass of vehicles avoiding each other, especially the ubiquitous yellow Danfo minibuses, an informal network of public transport. “Is Nigeria supposed to be okay like this? All these traffic jams…”breathes Ayo Babatunde Ogunleyimu, driver of a full Danfo. Lagos may be an economic powerhouse and home to Afropop superstars, but its residents struggle to access water and electricity. Lindsay Sawyer, from the Department of Urban Planning at the University of Sheffield, says that providing sustainable transport in Lagos requires keeping costs down. “Danfo is still present everywhere because it is still the most affordable option”he believes.

For years, authorities in Lagos have struggled to complete a long-overdue rail line. Abimbola Akinajo admits financing problems but assures that the first part of the “Blue Rail Line” will be finished by the end of the year. “The biggest problem is implementation”, insists Professor Agunbiade; but if the line works, “This will radically change the situation”.

Lagos is trying to develop a network of ferries

In Tanzania, Dar es Salaam has already had several successes with its rapid bus lines which, through expanded routes, have reduced congestion on a major artery. “The fast buses help ustestifies Saidi Jongo, a resident. At least no more traffic jams! »

As for Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the situation is quite different. A civil war in the early 2000s and violence in 2016 added displaced people to a skyrocketing population. masses of people there “do the feet” (walk) long distances, while roads are often blocked due to heavy traffic jams. In poor condition in most cases, public transport, provided by taxis and microbuses, is nicknamed “spirit of death”.

Also read: In Kinshasa, city dwellers face the immense challenge of sanitation

“When you see the size of traffic jams and the mass of people around, we realize that road transport cannot solve the problem of population mobility”estimates Martín Lukusa, general director of the Commercial Society of Transport and Ports (SCTP), a public company.

Lagos, for example, is trying to develop a network of ferries in its lagoons. But it is almost impossible to find financing because the cost of transportation is higher. For this reason, the majority of the residents of the suburbs, harassed, continue to wait for better solutions. It’s a madhouse! »angers Ochuko Oghuvwu, a stockbroker manager who travels twenty hours a week: “Lagos should have a metro line right now. »

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The world with AFP

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