The radios ring with advice on what not to do on the road. It’s 7:30am on a weekday in an increasingly crowded city. The urban poor who can’t afford habitation in the city centre are commut-
ing to work, with anxiety over reprimands from superiors suffusing their hearts. But the drivers race against the pervading current of advice from the radio. It’s Accra; it’s Lagos; it’s Abuja; it’s Abidjan.
Urban transport is a running challenge ever more left for private entrepreneurs to address for profit. Such transport remains largely poorly regulated and rather expensive when measured against the purchasing power. This is the same for transport within the region which is facilitated mainly by private road and air carriers. Development of a functional insurance sector affects the efficiency of such transport systems. Boat accidents on waterways and road crashes are widespread, often with fatalities. And it is not safer across borders.
Artificial barriers to crossborder transportation within the ECOWAS territory is what the West Africa Transport and Transit Facilitation Strategy intends reducing. This strategy has got various components, including the Interstate Road Transport framework (ISRT), the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS), the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (ECET), the ECOWAS Protocol on the Free Movement, and the Right of Residence and Establishment. The strategy is a recognition of the multifaceted impact of transportation and the fact that it has got a potential to transform the regional transport land-scape and contribute to socio-economic and political integration within the region.
Regrettably, commitment towards the full implementation of the provisions of these documents is lacking among member states. As such, private initiatives must gain ascendency. The urban poor have since resorted to commercialising their motorcycles for intra-city movements, in the face of breakdown of government-owned trans-port infrastructure. Millions of passenger-bearing Japanese motorcy-cles have sprung up in the streets giving off large palls of toxic smoke. Communities have embarked on their own self-help campaigns. In The Gambia the National Youth Parliament (NYP) recently held a Run For Road Safety campaign while the Village Development Committee (VDC) of Touba Angalleh rehabilitated a 4 -kilometre road stretching to Fass Njaga Choi in Lower Nuimi of North Bank Region. ECOWAS itself is paying tribute to these nonstate actors. Recently, it collabo-rated with the West African Civil Society Forum (WACSOF) on a project meant to aid transportation in the region through the con-struction of modern joint border posts and sensitisation of border communities, with funding from the European Union (EU).