Johannesburg in transition

12.09.2019 - Article

Johannesburg’s population is growing rapidly with no end in sight. What challenges does the growing rate of urbanisation pose for infrastructure and mobility? The German Development Bank KfW is working to analyse the main problems and come up with possible Solutions, writes KfW.

The city of Johannesburg
The city of Johannesburg© KfW

Africa is the most rapidly urbanising region second only to Asia. Over one billion people currently live on this continent. And urbanisation continues unabated: the population in African cities is expected to grow by around 20 million every year by 2040. The emerging metropolitan areas offer many opportunities, but unchecked growth also creates enormous challenges. This process is having a direct impact on social and economic development and is affecting infrastructure, mobility and resource consumption.

On the streets of South Africa

Growth creates a diverse range of problems for the city, many of which affect mobility. Thousands of people have to travel long distances every day to get to work, school or university. Most of the public transport system is road-based. “Accidents, polluted air, congested roads and high noise levels are the norm. Dangerous conditions are prevalent in some areas, and traffic offences are widespread,” is how Joseph Mbuyi describes life in the city. Anyone who cannot afford a car has to rely on the contentious minibuses. This is the only sector that is completely dominated by black business owners and operates without subsidies. Minibuses are relatively inexpensive and cover a large area, including regions on the city outskirts. However, they are considered very unsafe owing to frequent accidents and a high number of criminal offences, including harassment of other motorists. Minibuses are also governed by informal structures and often show no respect for the law.

Johannesburg is a City that is rapidly growing outwards.
Johannesburg is a City that is rapidly growing outwards.© KfW

The analysis clearly shows that fundamental change is needed on the streets of Johannesburg. “An integrative vision of the future that includes the electrification of transport and the expansion of the rail network can alleviate the problem,” says Mbuyi.

Systematically tackling problems in the mobility sector

To actively address the challenges in the South African mobility sector, KfW Development Bank is supporting the South African government in developing and establishing climate-friendly transport systems in cities. “We are facilitating the country’s transition to a green economy, also in the transport sector,” explains Christina Rollin, project manager at KfW Development Bank in Pretoria. In particular, the aim is to encourage better integration of the regions on the periphery of large cities. For example, KfW will support the roll-out of a rapid transit bus system in Durban which connects lower income areas with the city centres. Similar approaches are being implemented as part of Johannesburg’s “Corridors of Freedom” project.

Christina Rollin, KfW Entwicklungsbank, Pretoria.
Christina Rollin, KfW Entwicklungsbank, Pretoria.© KfW

In addition to roads, public transport by rail will also be expanded and improved: “An estimated 55,000 commuters use the Gautrain every day – an express train system linking Johannesburg with the capital of Pretoria. When the Gautrain was put into operation in 2011, one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects was completed and one of South Africa’s most congested routes eased. However, the transport network urgently needs to be expanded as demand grows,” says Christina Rollin.

To promote these efforts, KfW is supporting a study on financing options for expanding the Gautrain route network. This is also where KfW IPEX-Bank comes in. “In preliminary discussions, we are sharing our experience in developing integrative transport concepts with the Gautrain Management Agency,” adds Joseph Mbuyi.
The integration of individual measures and transport concepts is particularly important in the development of the South African mobility sector.

An estimated 55,000 commuters use the Gautrain every day.
An estimated 55,000 commuters use the Gautrain every day.© KfW

Through the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, KfW is helping South African municipalities to expand non-motorised transport (NMT) and implement a sustainable, affordable and safe transport strategy on behalf of the German Federal Government. Cycle paths and NMT strategies are being financed in three South African cities under the scope of “Green Goal”. With this project, KfW is helping to establish a cycling culture in Johannesburg that is not yet very well developed in South Africa. “To bring about change, we are focusing particularly on areas that have not yet been prioritised by the South African municipalities,” explains Christina Rollin. “The aim of our projects is to ensure that the people living in Johannesburg can reach their destinations safely using environmentally friendly modes of transport – which will ultimately improve their quality of life.”


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