hegazy1_Gehad Hamdypicture alliance via Getty Images_cairo metro Gehad Hamdy/picture alliance via Getty Images

Electrifying African Transport

Transport investments will be crucial in determining whether Africa follows an equitable, zero-carbon development path. Development banks and governments should move away from capital-intensive mass-transit projects, and toward enabling micro-entrepreneurs to build effective, electrified public transport networks.

CAIRO – Many transport experts think that we are succeeding in decarbonizing the sector: electric vehicles are taking off, public transport use is increasing, and cities worldwide are promoting cycling. But this sense of success is illusory. Globally, transport-related greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions are increasing faster than ever, despite technological advances and investments in decarbonization. This is especially so in Africa.

Transport investments will be crucial in determining whether Africa heads toward an inequitable, carbon-heavy development trap or a much fairer zero-carbon path. To achieve full decarbonization, development banks and African governments should move away from capital-intensive rail and bus rapid transit (BRT) projects, and toward enabling micro-entrepreneurs to build effective, electrified public transport networks. The solution may lie in fostering impact-driven transport network companies (TNCs).

Although Africa is responsible for some 3% of cumulative global carbon dioxide emissions, it is urbanizing at lower levels of per capita GDP than any other region. As the continent’s cities continue to expand, Africans increasingly need to travel – by motorized public transport, motorcycles, or private cars – in order to attain the same level of prosperity as people elsewhere.

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