Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 November 2019:
Yesterday, president Dr Julius Maada Bio launched the $50 million World Bank funded Sierra Leone Integrated Resilient Urban Mobility Project, at the Miatta Conference Centre in Freetown, where he spoke about the huge financial, environmental and health costs of congestion in Freetown.
“There is a heavy direct and indirect cost to congestion. Alongside our interventions being announced today, it may be invaluable for our government and our development partners to calculate the real monetary value of the cost of Freetown’s congestion. That may help us come to terms with its multiple realities and guide strategy and policy.
“I need not say that a congested city is not good for citizens, not good for tourism, not good for business, and not safe for our women and children. I need not emphasise that traffic congestion diminishes productivity, increases the cost of commuting through increased fuel and operating costs, and has environmental and health implications,” he said.
The President described a typically congested street of Freetown, with trucks that are not road-worthy, and ‘kekeh’ riders and taxi drivers disrespecting traffic regulations.
He said that okadas – commercial bike riders – are weaving dangerously through traffic with two or more passengers balanced precariously on a single seat.
“Let me thank the World Bank through their representatives, World Bank Executive Director-Africa Group 1, Madam Anne Kabagambe, and our World Bank Country Manager, Gayle Martin. They have been reliable partners in development, who understand this government’s commitment and vision. They and the World Bank are actively engaged in making the lives of Sierra Leoneans better. Thank you.
“Prior to our accession to office, we recognised as a party, that our Freetown was not the Freetown that we wanted. It was not the Freetown that was safe, clean, resilient, and liveable. It was not the Freetown we imagined would be conducive for visitors, friends, and citizens to travel, access services, explore economic opportunity, immerse themselves in the helpless gorgeousness of chaos and beauty, and do good business that creates jobs and enhances national development.
“Hitherto, there had been no coherence of policy or thinking about urban congestion and commuting and the potential of multimodal transportation has yet to be unlocked,” he observed.
The President spoke about his Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) manifesto, which he said aims to address the current traffic congestion in Freetown “not only by the construction of new roads” and the widening of others, supplemented with pedestrian flyovers at the busiest urban intersections, “but also by employing proven and practical traffic engineering mitigation measures, such as the use of actuated traffic light signals, directional traffic flows, channelisation, the use of pedestrian-only-roadways, commercial vehicles-only-roadways, peak and off-peak traffic directional flows, and effective traffic enforcement”.
He said that in order to tackle the urban blight of traffic congestion in the capital, his SLPP party is determined to review the legal and regulatory mandates of the responsible agencies in the sector, enforce traffic regulations, employ multiple modes of transportation within Freetown, provide mass-transit facilities – including markets, and increase public bus services.
“To our mind, one of the pathways among others, to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 11 – ‘Making cities sustainable’ is to invest in public transportation in a bid to build sustainable and resilient cities. To grapple with the complexity of the task at hand, we have determined that we should work with development partners and the private sector in designing an integrated, scaled, measurable, accountable, and sustainable pilot mobility plan,” the president said.
The Sierra Leone Drivers’ Union President – Alpha Bah, thanked the World Bank and the Government of Sierra Leone for the project, and spoke about his excitement at what could be achieved by the project. He said that the project could help to decongest the roads, improve safety for vehicular traffic and commuters, reduce road accidents, restore and promote the dignity of transport service to commuters and other road users, while also making driving professional and respectable.
The World Bank Executive Director said that she is excited to witness the official launch of the project, which she said will help build the city’s resilience to climate change, create jobs for the youths, and create roads that are safe.
She said that the project will also support the diversification of the economy and promotion of economic growth, and help develop human capital.
Sierra Leone’s Minister of Transport and Aviation, Kabineh Kallon, said that he is delighted that President Bio has launched the project, which he said will raise the awareness of people in Freetown and other municipalities across the country about the determination of the government to improve the country’s economy and well-being of people.
Minister of Finance, Jacob Jusu Saffa, said that the New Direction Government has succeeded in mobilising substantial resources through its engagement with donor partners, and that the launching of the Freetown urban transport improvement project is a testament to the overall achievement of the government. He expressed hope that the project will change and modernise Freetown.