When schoolchildren in Dar es Salaam don’t have to fear every time they cross the road after the final bell rings, they can thank Simon Kalolo. He’s a program officer with Amend, sub-Saharan Africa’s leading road safety NGO, which started a program called School Area Road Safety Assessments and Improvements (SARSAI) now underway in ten African countries: Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Ghana, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Benin, Namibia, and Botswana.
From offices in Tanzania, Ghana, and Mozambique, Amend staff work with local authorities to identify schools with high rates of traffic injuries to amend – hence the name – through their program with a set of proven, evidence-based interventions like speed bumps, zebra crossings, road signs, and sidewalks. While these might be no-brainers in most world cities, understaffed and fiscally constrained local governments in sub-Saharan Africa sometimes need the extra push. Amend’s work has been recognized by the World Health Organization and the NGO is a member of the United Nations Road Safety Collaboration.
ITDP: The theme of this year’s MOBILIZE is “making space for mobility in booming cities”. What is your city doing to address mobility in the face of rapid urbanization and what are the challenges in accelerating these solutions?
Simon Kalolo: In Dar es Salaam we are grateful that the city has been able to bring into operation new transportation: bus rapid transit. It has brought a big change, enabling people to safely and more efficiently move from one part of the city to the other. We are extremely happy that it is making the difference that was intended when it came into action.
One of the challenges we are facing is that commitment from governments is still lacking in many places where we are working. The priority in many places now is to put down infrastructure and get the mileage high, but when it comes to safety being incorporated that still lacks commitment. MOBILIZE will make a difference because without bringing people together from across the world, some countries take it quite lightly.
What impact would you like to have in your role in the coming years to address the issue of mobility and rapid urbanization?
Our key responsibility remains educating the masses, but also advocating for more pedestrian facilities to be incorporated. We are raising our voices that the improvements should not only focus on four-wheeled and motorized vehicles, rather the priority should be given to pedestrians and particularly young pedestrians like students and children. We focus on those vulnerable users by equipping them with knowledge on how to use these improved facilities.
What projects, anywhere in the world, are most interesting to you right now?
What’s happening now in Shanghai is remarkable. The population pressure that the city is going through currently and how they project to transport these people on a daily basis. As much as transportation is our key area, they show environment and pollution coming together in that particular question. For a city like Shanghai where the levels of pollution are extreme and now the population is high, they are thinking about green or electric public transports – that is extremely fascinating.
What are you most excited about seeing or learning at MOBILIZE?
Bringing together different supporters from all over the world is a tremendous opportunity. Sharing knowledge and experience from colleagues all over the world really adds up something that Tanzanians in the transportation sector will learn. It is also quite an experience for our fellow transport stakeholders who are coming from cities and countries where setting up a project like Dar es Salaam’s BRT has not been implemented: cities like Nairobi, Abuja, Lusaka. It should be interesting for them to see that it is possible rather than seeing these special examples from Tokyo, London, Moscow, and other places. Dar es Salaam being the host this time around will give a lot of insight to those coming from low- and middle-income countries to learn from the more experienced.
How does Amend address the issues of children and caretakers in regards to road safety?
Our program really focuses on that particular issue. Apart from providing infrastructure interventions around schools, we also provide tailored road safety education to students themselves on how to use these particular infrastructure interventions because we know that education alone does not necessarily reduce the risk of injuries. It is when we have a whole system outreach it makes a difference and that is exactly what we are doing in this city.
Our main success is the reduction in injuries around high-risk schools that have more than 10 injuries per year. Another success is our partnership to capacitate local road safety NGOs in other African cities. For example, we go to Lusaka, select a small NGO there, work with them, and make sure that they play a key role on the ground. When we are gone we are confident that at least they will continue implementing these projects as they expand.
What approaches are most likely to succeed for rapid deployment of road safety strategies, whether in Dar es Salaam or any city?
Most important is partnership and by partnership, I mean we cannot sit and point fingers at the governments and local authorities and say that they should be responsible for taking road safety to the next level. With motorized vehicles causing increased risks and the population pressure that cities are facing in many places, civil society, private sector, and international organizations all must come together to raise up this voice. We are putting road safety on the map globally and through that we will hopefully see more private sector and international corporations putting pressure on government to have road safety as a key component in transport programs and projects.
This interview is the part of the MOBILIZE Dar es Salaam Speaker Series. In this series, we will feature interviews with speakers and researchers from VREF’s Future Urban Transport where they will discuss their work in sustainable transport and reflect on MOBILIZE Dar es Salaam’s theme: Making Space for Mobility in Booming Cities.
To learn more about MOBILIZE Dar es Salaam visit mobilizesummit.org.