Africa’s High Road Fatality Rate Prompts Call for Urgent Safety Measures

The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Executive Secretary Claver Gatete has said Africa needs support in developing its road safety management to curb the high rate of road crashes which are a blight on the continent’s development.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates the road traffic fatality rate on the continent to be 26.6 deaths per 100,000 people compared to 17 in South-East Asia, 9.3 in Europe, and the world’s average of 17.5.

Speaking at the United Nations Partnership Meeting for Road Safety, Gatete said that the disproportionately high rate of road traffic deaths in Africa is alarming, especially as the continent has barely 3% of the world’s vehicle fleet.

“Equally alarming, road traffic fatalities in Africa increased by 15% between 2019 and 2020,” Gatete added.

The Partnership Meeting is a platform for UN organizations to share experiences in efforts to reduce road injuries and fatalities across the world.

The 2023 WHO Global Status Report on Road Safety, launched this week, indicates that approximately 1.19 million people die each year as a result of road traffic crashes with road traffic injuries being the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5–29 years.

“Road safety management is foundational to curbing road deaths, yet it remains a major challenge in Africa,” he said.

Research by ECA and the African Union Commission shows that only 22% of measures related to road safety management in the African Road Safety Action Plan (2011-2020) were implemented.

Lack of reliable data on road safety is another challenge that Africa grapples with, Gatete said, and called for the speedy implementation of the African Road Safety Observatory which will help address this issue through evidence-based decision-making on the continent.

Urging the UN organizations to support the digitalization of road safety in Africa, Gatete said the continent needs capacity building, technical assistance, research, and financial support.

About 92% of the world’s fatalities on the roads occur in low- and middle-income countries and road traffic crashes cost most countries 3% of their gross domestic product, according to the latest WHO Report.

“These numbers are not good, and we are paying too high a price for our mobility,” said Etienne Krug, WHO Director, Department for Social Determinants of Health during the report launch.

Despite the high rate of road traffic deaths, there has been some progress.

“The good news we have for the first time I think since the invention of the automobile, there is a decrease in the number of deaths, we have an overall 5% decrease in the number of deaths over the first Decade of Decade of Action for Road Safety,” Krug said, emphasizing that greater focus is needed in implementing safe systems and strengthening data.

The United Nations General Assembly has set an ambitious target of halving the global number of deaths and injuries from road traffic crashes by 2030.