‘Our walking is our asset’: Exploring the way in which walking is valued in pedestrian practice and policy in African cities

Walking in Lagos, Nigeria
Walking in Lagos, Nigeria

With the support of The High Volume Transport programme managed by IMC Worldwide and funded by UK Aid Walk21 coordinated new research on the value of walking in Africa.

In African cities, walking is the primary mode of transport with over 78% of people walking for travel every day. Yet walking remains marginalised as a transport mode in policy and practice.

The Full Report and Summary Policy Brief for transport decision makers identifies 7 common concerns of government authorities, non-government organisations, universities and funding bodies who participated in the study.

The authors, who include Dr Jack Benton and Professor James Evans from University of Manchester and Dr Gail Jennings, call for a redefinition of a successful mobility to help transform the way that walking is valued in Africa. Interestingly, the study found an imbalance of funding, rather than just the overall availability of funding, that is a major constraint for African city authorities.

The key implications for policy, practice and research to better support walking include:

1. An Africa-relevant framework for evaluating transport investment impact to help rebalance the prioritisation of funding, to deliver improvements that would retain and protect current pedestrians and possibly attract new people to walking as a transport mode.

2. Establishing methods for evaluating the walking experience and understanding the needs of pedestrians – beyond a simple concept of ‘road safety’ and ‘time saving’ – to help inform a new approach to providing for pedestrians. This includes:

  • Setting indicators for measuring the value of walking and the impact of investments on the walking experience
  • Collecting a broader set of data (both quantitative and qualitative data) on people walking; and
  • Engaging low-income communities more in sharing what they need and how to improve their walking experience

3. Training and capability building to develop the technical expertise and know-how to implement policies and effective solutions on walking are critical to enable the efficacy of investment. This includes:

  • Supplementing gaps in knowledge with external expertise and support and exchange experiences across Africa to grow capability; and
  • Demonstrating outcome impacts on the safety, accessibility and comfort of the walking experience through rigorous pilot and demonstration projects

Thanks to those from across the continent who were kind enough to give their time to participate in the research. Walk21 is also grateful to Bernard Obika, Louise Cathro from the HVT team; the expert authors for their insights; Carly Gilbert Patrick and Janene Tuniz (UNEP); and Aida Kaffel, Toby Walker and Daniel Sauter from Walk21.