In a press release announcing the opening of the Second African Road Safety Conference, November 9, 2011, the Economic Commission of Africa (ECA) said the conference opened with somber calls to turn Africa’s road carnage statistics around through the implementation of a proposed African Action Plan for the Decade 2011-2020.
The Plan will be reviewed this week by the hundreds of participants in attendance, the release said.
The Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Mr. Abdalla Hamdok was cited in the release as saying ‘ road crashes are the second leading cause of death for the 5-44 age group in African countries and “they exact a heavy toll on African economies.”
He underscored that the high crash incidence is attributed to “poor road networks, inadequate road signage, limited knowledge on road safety, poorly enforced legislation and the poor emergency-preparedness by medical facilities,” the release noted.
Citing an example he said , “In Ethiopia, a 2008 estimate of economic costs (attributed to road crashes) conservatively put this at close to $80 million per year.”
The release says the Road Safety Conference is one in a series of similar forums dating back to 1997 and organized by the ECA.
Hamdok noted that in this regard, recent declarations by Ministers have helped to push for national attention and to mitigate the “growing tragedy of deaths and injuries on African roads,” it said.
According to the release, the outcomes of such meetings have been incorporated in the Global Road Safety Action Plan. In addition, efforts by NGOs and the private sector have contributed to increased road safety awareness.
“We strongly believe that we have to act together to develop sustainable policies and action points if we are to realise a safe traffic environment for our continent,” he said. “Through the African Action Plan, Africa will have a voice.”
It also indicated that testimonies by road crash victims from Ethiopia and South Africa’s Maputo Corridor brought home the gut-wrenching impact of the carnage and the reality of the statistics shared by Hamdok: Globally more than 1.2 million people die in road crashes around the world and 65% of these deaths are pedestrians who do not own cars. Much worse, 35% percent of pedestrian deaths are innocent children. The majority of these deaths – about 70 percent – occur in developing countries.
“In our region where 50% of the population is below the age of 16, road crashes therefore exact a heavy human toll on the continent’s younger members and robs Africa of its future human capital,” he said and added: “The road safety agenda has become urgent, particularly in Africa – we will have to rally together to reduce road safety fatalities and injuries.”
The conference is being convened by ECA; Sub-Saharan Africa Transport Policy Program (SSATP); Global Road Safety Facility (GRSF); Government of Ethiopia; and International Road Federation (IRF) in collaboration with the African Union Commission, the African Development Bank and the World Bank, the release said.
In Ghana for instance, the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC) says accidents cost the country as much as $230 million every year, apart from the fact that many Ghanaians lose their lives. The amount it says, constitutes 1.7% of the country’s GDP.
Statistics available elsewhere says 1,600 people get killed every year through road traffic accidents.
A Ghana News Agency (GNA) report cites Mr Kwaku Oware-Boateng, Ashanti Regional Manager of the Road Safety Committee, saying that 43% of the fatalities involved pedestrians with about 23% representing children below the age of 16 years.
The GNA also cites the Executive Director of the NRSC, Noble Appiah as saying that there are 19 fatalities per 10,000 vehicles in Ghana.
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi