In-Depth

Investing in transport: How can we help countries make better-informed decisions?

Authors: Nancy Vandycke and Marcela Silva,


South Africa has made significant progress toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But the work is far from over. To sustain and amplify the socioeconomic gains of the last few years, expanding access to sustainable transport will be a key priority.

These were the views expressed by Ms. Boitumelo Mosako, Chief Financial officer and Executive Director of the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), in a dialogue during the just concluded 10th Consortium Meeting of the Sustainable Mobility for All initiative (SuM4All).

Ms. Mosako also commended the coalition for the ongoing SuM4All pilot program in South Africa. “Despite the challenging circumstances we found ourselves in last year with the pandemic, the SuM4All partners still managed to do extensive work and end with a draft diagnostic report of South Africa’s transport system.”

Since its inception, SuM4All has developed a vast body of knowledge, expertise, and policy tools to support the transition toward safe, green, efficient, and equitable mobility. Last year, South Africa announced it would become the first country to leverage SuM4All’s work in order to guide future transport policy and drive real change on the ground.

In particular, the country has piloted the use of the Global Roadmap of Action toward Sustainable Mobility (GRA) to devise a tailored action plan for transport, and took advantage of SuM4All’s latest tool to diagnose mobility issues and benchmark the performance of its transport sector against relevant comparator countries.

 

Why a diagnostic of South Africa’s transport system?

The diagnostic conducted in South Africa identifies strengths and opportunities for improvement across all modes of transport. The benchmarking allows us to identify challenges at a high level, and the framework is a powerful way to compare countries like for like using standard indicators. We recognize that these results cannot always tell the full story, and may not reflect the specific context or transport strategy of each country. Still, we can use the diagnostic to identify areas where additional drill-down analyses are needed to understand the gaps better and explore necessary interventions.

We can see, for instance, that South Africa has made significant strides in reducing the transport access gap in rural areas. Urban transport is a different story, and the diagnostic shows South Africa will need to make a concerted effort at improving transport access in cities before it can catch up with comparable countries.

The high-level diagnostic provides a wealth of insights. It confirms what other sources like South Africa’s household surveys have shown regarding ease of access to social services and transport affordability. We can now carry out more in-depth complimentary analysis to fine-tune the country’s diagnostic results and tailor actions accordingly.

 

Connecting the dots

This diagnostic is only as good as the data it is based on—and the availability of consistent, reliable data can certainly be a challenge in the transport sector. To conduct this analysis, we relied on SuM4All’s Global Tracking Framework 2.0 and on datasets pooled by our partners, including IRF World Road Statistics, ICAO Statistics, UNCTADstat, UIC RAILISA, and the World Bank open data portal.

However, it is important to note that some of the tools we used when we first started were launched before the pandemic. The original version of the Global Roadmap of Action, for instance, came out in October 2019. To keep our country engagement as timely and relevant as possible, we had to ensure our work integrate the reality of COVID-19 and its implications on people, economies, and transport.

So, in June last year, we decided to go back to our GRA tool and “upgrade it” to account for resilience to shocks (like a pandemic or a climate shock). We expanded the catalog of policy measures (so, we have now about 200) and we refined our methodology/algorithm to embed resilience. The upgraded GRA 2.0 will assist South Africa in achieving a transport system that is universal, safe, efficient, green… and can withstand future shocks.

In the next phase, SuM4All partners will draw on the final diagnostic of South Africa’s mobility system to produce a prototype action plan consisting of priority policy measures that support South Africa’s transition toward sustainable mobility and the SDGs. Stakeholder engagement with national and local authorities to validate and refine the diagnostic and prototype action plan will ensure that this effort adds real value and truly informs South Africa’s investment choices.

 

Graph representing the performance of 100 countries on the SDGs and sustainable mobility

 

When measuring the performance of countries on the SDGs and sustainable mobility, South Africa appears in the ‘Low SDG, Low Sustainable’ Mobility quadrant (see graph above).

For Ms. Mosako, the benefit of working with SuM4all partners is clear: it is all about making better-informed decisions to transform South Africa’s transport sector and propel the country forward. In her own words: “I am looking forward to us—with the help of SuM4All partners—moving from that bottom left quadrant to the top right quadrant.”

“This is only the beginning of a journey, and I would like some of our partners to be open to journey with us,” said Mosako.

Ethiopia is now considering a similar approach. Minister of Transport H.E. Dagmawit Moges has expressed interest in using the global knowledge and expertise of SuM4all partners to transform the future of transport and mobility.

“I will like to appreciate the effort that has commenced as a pilot project in South Africa,” said Minister Moges during the En Route to COP26 event that took place in December. Adding, “Ethiopia also has the need for data-based mobility decision. This road map of action towards sustainable mobility at country level, I believe, could help my country make the right investment and policy choice evidenced by proper data.”

These examples show how we can leverage SuM4All’s extensive knowledge work to foster real, meaningful transformation. We hope to engage a growing number of countries in the near future and will make sure to keep you posted every step of the way.

 

Originally published by the World Bank Group Transport for Development [https://blogs.worldbank.org/transport/investing-transport-how-can-we-help-countries-make-better-informed-decisions]

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