Africa’s first Road Safety Observatory launched

By on 31/05/2018 | Updated on 24/09/2020
The observatory aims to improve road safety in seven African countries (Image courtesy: World Bank Group).

An international drive to cut road deaths in Africa by setting up the continent’s first regional Road Safety Observatory was launched in Leipzig last week.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to set up the observatory in Morocco was signed by the World Bank, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) and OECD think-tank the International Transport Forum (ITF) at the latter’s annual summit last week.

Africa has the world’s highest rate of fatal road accidents, despite having relatively small numbers of vehicles in circulation, and improving road safety has gained traction in recent years as a key development priority for the continent.

The observatory is aimed at helping governments to reduce road deaths by centralising the collection, analysis and exchange of reliable data on road accidents and providing a platform for officials and experts to share best practice and scale up effective policies.

Risks on the roads

Young Tae Kim, secretary-general of the ITF, said: “Africa has 2% of the world’s cars but 20% of the road deaths. The continent must be empowered to tackle this problem now. Supporting governments in the region to collect, analyse and use quality crash data is a powerful way to direct scarce resources to their most effective use and save more lives.”

José Luis Irigoyen, the World Bank’s senior director for transport and digital development, said it was proud to be part of the initiative and confident that the observatory would raise the “visibility” of the road safety challenge and successfully promote regional collaboration – as a similar observatory in Latin America is already doing.

Jean Todt, UN special envoy for road safety and president of the FIA, said: “By understanding the root causes of traffic injuries and fatalities, policy makers can better evaluate the preventive measures available and make investment in road safety more effective.”

Going places

The ceremony, which was also attended by Morocco’s vice-minister of transport Mohamed Najib Boulif, took place on the first day of the ITF Summit, the world’s largest gathering of transport ministers and policy makers. The summit focused on transport safety and security.

The observatory’s governance structure and funding mechanism are now being finalised by seven African countries that signed a resolution in February confirming their interest in the project, including Morocco. The others are Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Senegal and Benin.

The initiative is also supported by the Africa Transport Policy Program; the World Health Organisation; the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa; the Islamic Development Bank; Safer Africa; and the World Bank’s Global Road Safety Facility.

About Liz Heron

Liz Heron is a journalist based in London. She worked on daily newspapers for more than 16 years as an education correspondent, section editor and general news reporter. She was Education Editor of the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong and has contributed to a wide range of British media including The Independent, The Guardian and the BBC.

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