Iam (WE) growing tired of having to say each year; 1.3 million people die as a result of road traffic crashes globally. This approximates to at least 3000 deaths each day. Funny enough, nearly 90% of all road traffic mortalities do happen in low and middle income countries of which Africa takes a lion’s share. Again, Africa has one of the lowest car ownership in the world. It’s no myth however that, if you are aged 15-29, and live in Africa, you have the highest risk of dying in a road traffic crash than Malaria, HIV/AIDS or Cancer. The economic, psychological, social effects arising from death and disability can’t be under estimated either.
#IRFRSChallange2015, held from 11th-12th March 2015, Addis Ababa Ethiopia, aimed to challenge African countries and participants to accomplish targets of road safety in accordance with the decade of action. With great and experienced speakers drawn from all over the world, the conference was divided into 6 Sessions on The IRF Road Safety Challenge, Road Safety Management, Safer Roads and Mobility, Safer Vehicles, Safer Road Users, M&E of Road Safety Measures and Road Safety Capacity Building. Upon which, I’d like to share major proceeds to the Conference.
- Why do ministers miss at such events? Out of 5 Ministers of Transport from Burkina Faso, Ghana, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia who had confirmed to participate in the conference, only Ghana, Uganda, Zambia and Ethiopia participated meaningfully. There was no one from Cape Verde, Cote D’Ivoire, and Republic of Congo even though they had confirmed to participate. Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, South Africa and Tanzania, Sudan and Sierra Leone had Ministerial Representatives. I mean, how hard can it be? If a minister can’t make it for such an important meeting because of ‘unavoidable circumstances’, why the hell, can’t they brief and send someone else from the ministry? And where were the rest of the Ministers from the 49 African Countries? They missed their flights? Right! Jeez 😥
- Why do we still construct roads without pedestrian and cyclist pathways? Yes, we want to reduce costs, the dollar is trading high these days! Lame excuses! If you plan for cars, you will get cars, if you plan for people, you will get people. It’s insanely funny, when a policy maker shows you photographs of planned road constructions without such must-haves. How in the name of God, do you expect a human being to wrestle with vehicles for the same space? You have technical people, engineers and activists in your country, consult them damn it! Before your constructions start! You know it, they know it, and we all know it! It’s best to have a standard safe short road than having a long, dangerous stretch of a road. Why do you accredit institutions of Engineering in the first place, if you aint gonna listen to their advice? 😥
- Why is everyone saying ‘We have introduced a road safety curriculum in schools and formed road safety clubs?’ This is not true at all country,continent wide. Only South Africa, Ghana, Zambia and Morocco may have afew bragging rights but certainly not the rest. How can this be possible when Teacher Training Colleges do not teach Teachers road safety? How will they be able to teach and live it with their students? Just because a local CBO, NGO is supporting a road safety project in 10 Schools in your country, shouldn’t be a reason enough to put on a neck tie, stand in front of people and LIE! NGOs are doing the work of governments to protect their citizens :O
- Why is corruption and undemonstratable public policy underrated? There is no successful programme implementation without a bad arse type of leader and manager who lives by his actions. Road Safety isn’t any different. If a whole man and a half of a President doesn’t openly encourage motorcyclists to put on helmets and provide one for passengers, If a Minister of Transport neglects a right of way principle because he is in a ‘hurry’, if a district Local Council Chairperson can speed through the road mazes in his catchment area and get away with it, if we can pay for driving permits illegally; why do we downplay such challenges at such platforms.
- Why do we have 1-minute harmonization of vehicle regulations campaigns and safe technologies?
Am quite sure, a number of us are familiar with ‘Speed governors campaign’, ‘visibility campaigns’, ‘Use helmets campaign’, ‘Don’t drink and drive campaign’, ‘Third party’ and they are so intensive in the first week before meeting the spirit of death in the subsequent weeks. Why???? The theory of behavior change explains this quite well:-it’s a damn process! If we can’t run successful campaigns consistently, what’s the use of wasting the scarce resources? 3 days ago, 54 lives were lost in an instant when a bus was hit by a container from a truck. In the first place, why would a truck which had reached its retirement age long before my dad was born allowed to be on the road? 😥
- Why do we still have no real lead agencies at country level? I honestly think this is the most painful of all! Its like expecting a child to learn to do everything correct without an enabling environment. The National Road Safety Councils are deeply rooted in the thorax of the Ministry of Transport-in many African countries:-They aint allowed to outsource for any resources including human resources. Most operate in the capital and major cities. How are they supposed to monitor, evaluate and learn from the policies ongoing? Besides, in many countries, majority of the powers are with Traffic Police whose vertical orders can’t take into consideration of needed advice. Come on! :O
- Why is the African Union chilling about Road Safety Legislation and Policy in the African Road Safety Charter? Speaking of Policies, the king of policies is the African Union. I might be wrong, but may be, if there was someone to speak about this issue from the African Union perspective at the conference may be, just maybe, we wouldn’t be bothered by this. Most of the technical work is done by Economic Commission for Africa, and I bet my last dollar:-if it wasn’t for ECA, I rest my case. :O
- Why do we have to wait for International Road Federation to come to our rescue in our own bedrooms? The Chairman IRF, Mr. KK Kapila announced the establishment of IRF-Africa Chapter to help in following up the Decade of Action in Africa. As one representative from DRC put it, we need a Pan African Road Safety Fund in order to do more. But again, while afew richest Africans ‘own’ us, none of them has funded a single road safety intervention in the continent except opening up car bonds. So, if we can’t allocate funds for comprehensive road safety, how sure can citizens be, if established, the Pan African Road Safety Fund won’t be used to fund the military?
- Why is it impossible to have country level toll free emergency lines? Come on! Even my grand mum can make a phone call. It’s very disappointing, because we talked and wrote this during the 2nd African Conference on Road Safety, session on Post-Crash Care. Activating EMS services can’t happen by magic. Someone’s gonna call for help. Some countries who claim to have emergency lines, have 8+ digits! How’s an 8 year old or a visitor supposed to remember such lines? It’s midway to the end of Decade of Action, but we still don’t have a reliable Toll Free Line? Many of the hospitals (if existing) are not prepared to handle emergencies. Off record, we’ve heard, some hospitals don’t handle victims of road traffic crashes until they have got clearances from the police! Are we bullshitting ourselves? 😥
- Why can’t we get credible data on mortalities at country level? Most African countries, to say the least, don’t know how many people they are losing every day to road traffic crashes! Why? Because data collection methodology suffered from polio long time ago! Why? Because most public institutions have kept the statusquo. Mary-mother of Jesus, with all the young people we have at the continent level, with all the IT and app revolution, why can’t we at least ask for volunteers to establish an electronic data collection and surveillance network at district levels to feed into the national level database? Well, because ‘orders from above’ needs to first look at the statistics before announcing them to the public! 5 years to the end of decade of action and here we are…Man!
With thanks to Susanna and J Thomas who enabled my participation as an African youth activist on Road Safety. Special thanks to YOURS-Youths for Road Safety and National Road Safety Youth Champions.