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African States Are Going about Regulating Minibus Taxis Wrong

Millions of people in Africa’s cities rely on public transport to get around. Minibuses are especially common, whether you’re in Accra, Dar es Salaam, Lagos or Nairobi. In Accra, the ubiquitous minibuses are known as tro-tro, in Dar es Salaam as daladalas, in Lagos as danfos and in Nairobi as matatus. These vehicles offer flexible, generally affordable services. They also, unfortunately, contribute significantly to the continent’s well documented road safety problems. In Kenya’s capital city Nairobi, it is estimated that minibus crashes account for some 95% of road deaths. In Ghana, accidents involving tro-tro vehicles killed 300 and injured nearly 2,000 people in the first quarter of 2019. It has been shown that tro-tro drivers in Ghana operate within a precarious work climate marked by cut-throat competition; low wages; job insecurity; non-negotiable daily fees by car owners and harassment from corrupt police officers. These numerous financial and other demands are what push the drivers to undertake the dangerous driving behaviour that earn them public opprobrium. Research advises that authorities need to address structural unemployment and police corruption. They need to create and enforce labour protection policies that improve commercial passenger drivers’ working conditions. Interventions like these could yield widespread and sustainable road safety benefits – far more than is achieved by the present public policy of declaring ‘wars’ on the drivers.