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The African Development Bank hosted a two-day high-level regional road safety workshop in Abidjan recently to bring together top managements of road authorities and development partners to share and operationalize three road safety manuals recently prepared by the Bank. During his opening speech, Amadou Oumarou, Director of the Bank’s Transport and ICT Department, said addressing road safety is crucial in Africa, which experiences the highest rates of road fatalities in the world, impacting negatively people’s life and economic development. Financed by the Global Road Safety Facility (GRSF), the October 27-28 workshop focused on the design and management of safer road infrastructure in Africa.
Girma Bezabeh, Road Safety Specialist at the AfDB, emphasized that unless Africa mobilizes its human and financial resources urgently, the number of road fatalities and injures are expected to increase by 6% per year with the increase in population, vehicle ownership and road network development. “The level of road safety awareness is increasing, but the managerial, technical and financial capacities remain very low,” he noted.
Road traffic accidents can be caused by a number of factors and road safety works involves various stakeholders, underlined Erling Rask, an AfDB Consultant. “Drivers are not the only responsible contributors of road accidents; there is a need to consider infrastructure design, emergency systems or legal frameworks for driving and vehicles licenses,” he pointed out.
Although human error is said to be the main cause of accidents, road infrastructure safety can play a significant role in influencing the behaviour of road users. Road accident cannot be completely eradicated, but through a safe system approach the number of accidents can be reduced and the severity of injuries can be minimized. Road agencies’ goal should therefore be to create a forgiving road infrastructure to reduce serious human injuries. For example, major improvement can be done in infrastructure design, forcing the drivers to reduce speed by building roundabouts, or keeping safe spaces for non-motorized users. The vulnerable road users, which include pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcycle riders, constitute over 65% of the road deaths in Africa.
Presentations by participants from Nigeria and South Africa illustrated the best practices in Africa, which motivated the workshop participants. Boboye Oyeyemi presented the responsibilities and practices of the Nigerian Federal Road Safety Corps, while Nazir Alli’s presentation showed how the South African National Road Agency undertakes its responsibility in providing safe national road network in South Africa. The two presentations added significant value to the workshop to demonstrate how road agencies in Africa can mainstream road safety and operationalize the manuals to fulfil their responsibilities in providing safe road network in their respective countries.
Participants indicated various interventions including safety education in primary or secondary school programs. The need for road agencies to use at least 10% of their budget for road safety was also reflected. Rask advised participants to consider a road safety audit at all stages in the design of roads to maximize the impact and save budget requirements to improve roads for safety after construction.”
AfDB has started introducing road safety audits to systematically incorporate road safety at the early stages of road infrastructure development in Bank-financed road projects. Adopting a 360-degree approach, the Bank also finances emergency medical centres and ambulances, as was the case in the Isebania-Ahero road project in Kenya.
The Bank will continue to play its role in promoting road safety, particularly in capacity building and transferring best practices to Africa. The Bank undertakes national and regional road safety assessments towards identifying priorities and developing national road safety programs. The Bank also intends to create regional centres of excellence to undertake problem-solving research and build road safety capacity in order to address road safety sustainably on the continent.
The African Development Bank recently published a series of road safety manuals, which served as a core theme of the two-day workshop. “The manuals help to incorporate safe system approaches throughout the complete life cycle of road projects, from the design to the completion… and operation,” indicated Girma Bezabeh. The workshop was attended by more than 50 participants from 30 African countries, alongside development partners working in Africa.