The importance of infrastructure development cannot be underestimated. During a recent visit to Europe I was once again reminded of the significance of having a long-term perspective and vision with regard to developing infrastructure on the African continent.
We all know the link between infrastructure development and the economy. I would like to focus on the relationship between people and transport. I realised another side benefit to developing this infrastructure. The public transportation systems that have been built in European cities over time support the development of the economy, providing quick and easy connections between cities, industries and airports. This mobility is key in growing the economies in Europe and allows for better business connections.
A week spent in one of Europe’s most advanced cities brought home a fundamental truth about transport, how best to connect people to their destinations. In the case of the metro service in particular, it carries you to where you need to go. There is however still some walking to be done once you have ‘arrived at your destination’ at the metro station or to get to the metro station from your home. This is when I saw the relationship between public transport and public well-being. Walking to and from the public transport pick-up and drop-off points gives the commuter the opportunity to burn some kilojoules, which contributes to a healthy lifestyle. The link between physical exercise and public transport, which is generally lacking when we rely on private transportation, is therefore another very important reason to develop infrastructure for public transport. I think of it as ‘Infra-Exercise’. Developing infrastructure for public transport to promote healthy lifestyles for the country’s citizens.
This intentional set-up of the public transport system allows the opportunity for some exercise, whether it be from your home to the train station or from the train station to your work or to a meeting place. This development adds alternatives in transport. In Europe you are spoilt for choice. With more choices and alternatives, it therefore also provides you with more cost alternative options to choose from. This is also the first step in reducing the number of private vehicles on the road, which impacts on the environment we live in.
The challenge is how we apply this culture of using public transportation to encourage a healthy lifestyle in Africa. The first step is definitely putting the infrastructure in place and then promoting the use of public transportation as the norm. It is vital for people to have more transportation options. The easier access will lead to better connections and an increase in business, which ultimately will advance our economies.
We need to build a transportation system in Africa that supports African infrastructure development as well as the Infra-Exercise system to enhance our physical development at the same time. The question is therefore how fast and ready are we on the continent of Africa to develop more alternatives for public transportation in the urban areas? Can we develop the links between various cities across Africa so that our future generations will be spoilt for choice when using the quality public transport that we have put in place?’ I suppose only time will tell how we progress on this transportation opportunity.
Johny M. Smith is currently the chief executive officer of the Walvis Bay Corridor Group (WBCG), a Public Private Partnership (PPP) of transport and logistics stakeholders who jointly work towards developing the various Corridor routes through the Port of Walvis Bay, and facilitating fast, safe, reliable and efficient transport along these routes. He has more than 25 years' commercial experience in the fields of telecommunications, land and sea transportation. He holds a B Comm degree and MBA. He serves as a Commissioner of the National Planning Commission and is director of other Boards as well as chairman of ACMA, which is an alliance for all corridor management Institutions in Africa.