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UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety visits West Africa to accelerate implementation of new mobility policies

UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety visits West Africa to accelerate implementation of new mobility policies

Dakar traffic

The Special Envoy Jean Todt will visit Senegal (May 3-6) and Côte d'Ivoire (May 7-8) to meet with ministers as well as representatives of the private sector, public sector, and NGOs to advocate for the effective implementation of the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030, which aims to halve the number of victims on the road by 2030. Sub-Saharan Africa is the region most affected by road crashes, with a fatality rate of 27/100,000 inhabitants, three times higher than the European average of 9/100,000. The world average is 18/100,000. 

“Africa is particularly affected by the tragedy of road accidents, which is the leading cause of youth mortality. It accounts for about 25% of the number of victims, while the continent has barely 2% of the world's vehicle fleet. This is intolerable when solutions exist", deplores the Special Envoy.

Recent tragedies have caused public outcry

The beginning of this year was marked by gruesome collisions in Senegal and Côte d'Ivoire. Two bus accidents in Senegal in January cost the lives of 62 people and injured a hundred others.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the road crash mortality rate in Senegal is 24 per 100,000 inhabitants. 519 people died on Senegalese roads between January 1st and September 3rd, 2022, exceeding the total number of deaths (487) during the entire year 2021 (ANASER).

In January, in Yamoussoukro, Côte d'Ivoire, a bus accident killed 14 people and injured 70 others, while a collision in August 2022 killed 25 people in the north of Abidjan. The average daily number of road accidents in Côte d'Ivoire increased from 12 in 2012 to 46 in 2022, according to the National Safety Council (CNS).

These bus accidents have highlighted the obsolescence of the vehicle fleet in both countries, the lack of technical control and the failure to comply with the Highway Code.

Towards an awareness of the urgent challenges to be addressed

Drink driving, speeding, drowsiness, negligence, non-use of seat belts and helmets, and non-compliance with traffic regulations are the main cause of road accidents in Africa. The ageing of the vehicle fleet and public transport, false licenses, lack of enforcement of penalties and the lack of rigorous technical inspections are also major causes of accidents.

Among the solutions to be implemented include the need to strengthen health services for crash victims, adherence to the African Road Safety Charter, the United Nations Basic Conventions on Road Safety, and the need to strengthen public awareness campaigns.

It is also necessary to protect the most vulnerable road users, namely pedestrians and cyclists, who are often also the poorest and youngest. Africa has the highest proportion of cyclist and pedestrian fatalities, accounting for 44% of the total number of road deaths.

In addition to the human tragedy, road accidents trap countries in a vicious circle of poverty. According to the World Bank, the cost of road accidents represents 8% of Senegal's annual GDP and 7.8% of Côte d'Ivoire's. 

Strong new measures to be implemented

Strong measures have been announced by the Senegalese government following the tragic accidents of January. A National Road Safety Plan (PNSR) with 22 new measures has been adopted for the period 2021-2030, with the aim of reducing the number of deaths and serious injuries by 50%.

This plan also includes strengthening road controls, limiting the circulation of public transport vehicles, banning the importation of used tires, providing free technical control in Dakar for transport and goods vehicles, and the opening of technical control centres in different regions of the country.  Additionally, the creation of the National Road Safety Agency (ANASER) took place in 2021. Awareness-raising actions are also regularly implemented, such as those proposed during the World Road Safety Week to be held from 15 to 21 May 2023.

In Côte d'Ivoire, new initiatives have also been taken, including strengthening road safety laws, creating a traffic police force, and the General State of Transport. In 2021, the government decided to enforce helmet wearing following several fatal accidents in the north of the country. It will now be important to verify the effectiveness of these measures.

Commitments are there, be it in Senegal or in Côte d'Ivoire. What remains is the most difficult part: implementation and measurement of progress. The role of the UN Special Envoy for Road Safety is to explore collaboration opportunities with all stakeholders, share best practices and support the implementation of new strategies to achieve safer roads for all.

The obsolescence of the vehicle fleet requires special attention in West Africa. Senegal and Cote d'Ivoire mainly rely on imports of used vehicles. In 2016, the average age of the vehicle fleet in Senegal was 18 years, with 40 percent of the fleet over 20 years old, according to a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) study. Senegal enacted a decree in 2001 limiting the age of imported cars to five years. This decree was amended in 2012, raising the age to eight years.

Both countries are members of the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). In 2020, the ECOWAS Council of Ministers adopted a directive on limiting vehicle emissions, which regulated new and used vehicles imported into the region. The directive includes restrictions on vehicle age, an emissions limit, and a type-approval requirement. This initiative represents the first harmonized approach in Africa to regulate imported used vehicles. When fully implemented, it will have a significant impact on the environment, health, and road safety.

The United Nations Road Safety Fund is investing in a project for importing safer and environmentally friendly vehicles in Africa.  In partnership with government ministries, the private sector, and civil society, the initiative supports the regulation of the export and import of used vehicles in Africa, particularly vehicle regulations and technical inspections or anti-lock braking systems. In 2021, the project contributed to the European Commission's proposal, adopted in 2023, to improve regulations on waste shipments.


Note to Editors

UNECE is the custodian of the United Nations road safety legal instruments applicable worldwide. It hosts the secretariat of the Special Envoy for Road Safety and of the UN Road Safety Fund.

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