Writing for the Huffington Post, Dr Álvaro Sobrinho has stated the case for private sector intervention in Africa’s ailing urban transport systems: “Private sector companies can be vital partners to African urban centres by providing financing to expand and develop low-carbon transport options,” wrote the Angolan-born investment banker and philanthropist.
Using OECD data, Dr Sobrinho points out the damage being done by air pollution in Africa, where more than 700,000 people die from air pollution each year. Traffic, power generation and industry are the three primary causes of air pollution and Africa has yet to take decisive action to curb emissions.
Given Africa’s fast rising urban population – the Brookings Institute estimates 1.2 billion Africans will live in cities by 2050, up from 400 million today – it is vital that urban transportation is improved. The World Bank believes “quality and cost-efficient transportation is one of the main challenges facing the continent’s urban centres”. The existing systems, claims Dr Sobrinho, are inefficient and too expensive for most residents.
Most African cities rely on minibus services, taxis and private vehicles. These options are neither scalable nor affordable, says Dr Sobrinho. The result is that most citizens journey by foot to their destination, a reality that is limiting their capacity to find work and be competitive. On top of this, these systems emit excessive amounts of greenhouse gases and cause immediate air pollution.
In order to redesign and rebuild Africa’s urban transport infrastructure, Dr Álvaro Sobrinho recommends turning to private sector companies, who have the financial means, technological capacity and initiative to make positive changes. He advocates the use of Green Bonds to raise capital and argues for improved STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education in order to provide the skilled workforce need to build a modern transport system.