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Access to education, jobs and leisure

Whilst getting to and from employment is a significant focus for why people travel, it is only one of number major reasons people use Informal Public Transport. Shopping, maintaining social networks, undertaking administrative visits to banks and offices and accessing education were also found to be significant. The importance of these different trip purposes can also differ between men and women and across different age groups. Asking whether public transport networks serve the different locations for these types of trips will be highly relevant to future planning activities.



Informal Public Transport provides access to jobs, education, healthcare, social networks and leisure activities for a wide range of users across cities in Africa. The importance of failing to deliver such access to all urban citizens is highlighted in research by the World Bank [13]. This study showed the substantial negative impact that inadequate public transport has on access to health and education and ultimately on human development outcomes for the poorest and most vulnerable in a range of African cities.

It also highlights the impact that not being able to access services and opportunities may compound problems faced by existing vulnerable and excluded groups such as girls and women, people with disabilities and people from low-income households.

It is thus important to understand who is using informal public transport systems and for what purposes, which in turn helps us to assess the role that IPT access is playing in people’s lives and where gaps in service provision remain.

Comparison of situations and perspectives from the TRANSITIONS cities

Gender of passengers – The degree to which there is a balance between men and women who use informal IPT, based upon the passenger opinion survey, varies between cities. For example, In Accra it was found that 42% of users surveyed were females and 58% males. In Kumasi, 39% of users were female and 61% were males. Conversely, in Freetown, female users made up the majority with 53% users interviewed were women and 47% men. Maputo had a similar passenger composition in the study areas of 52% women and 49% men. In the case of Cape Town, female users were even more predominant making up fifty-nine percent of respondents interviewed compared to 41% who were male.

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Figure: IPT trip purposes by gender - Maputo

Figure: Contrasting proportions of female and male passengers in Cape Town (left) and Kumasi

Age of passengers - The majority of users are frequently of working age. For example, in Accra, 44% were found to be between 31-45 and 84% were under 45 years old. In Kumasi, similarly, over three-quarters of respondents were of working ages between 21 and 45. Similar compositions were also found amongst users in Cape Town, Freetown and Maputo. Students under the age of 21 and older people appear to constitute smaller percentages of the users.

Employment - The concentration of working age users leads, perhaps unsurprisingly, to the observation that a majority of IPT users are employed. 80% of users in Accra were found to be employed either by an organsation or self-employed. 77% of users in Freetown were found to be employed but interestingly nearly 60% of users reported being self-employed. This is a reflection, not only, of the importance of the informal economy in this West African city, but in many cities across the continent. Students, unemployed people and retired persons made up varying but relatively small percentages of users. In Cape Town, unemployed people made up 13% of users and 8% in Freetown. In Kumasi, students made up 27% of users where as in Accra they made up 10% of users. Whilst providing mobility for working age people is economically important for any city, it is useful to consider to what extent mobility provided by IPT is available and affordable by more vulnerable groups such as young people, older people or people with disabilties. This leads us to question to what extent IPT is also meeting their needs in an appropriate manner. 

Other trip purposes – As demonstrated by in the chart for Maputo trips for purposes other than employment do form significant passenger demands. In Kumasi, trips to maintain family and social networks and visit family and friends made up the largest type of trip purpose at nearly half of all trips. Trips to and from employment made 27% of journeys. Trips for shopping and replenishing household goods featured as a significant trip purpose, although this can involve shopping for trading purposes (i.e. purchasing goods in a central market which are then re-sold in other locations). In Freetown 39% of trips were found to be for shopping. In Cape Town, 24% were for shopping trips. As might be expected, such journeys are not equally divided between men and women. In Kumasi, 57% of shopping trips were made by women and 63% of shopping trips in Cape Town were made by women.

The importance of trip purposes for reasons other than accessing employment may have significant impact on the locations that need to be served across a city. An overwhelming focus on employment locations may present problems for users making journeys for other activities. 

Goods and logistics - It is also important to consider the ease of physical mobility for those who need to travel with goods and luggage (often a particular feature of women employed in the informal sector and people accompanying other users, young and old). The number of users who reported the need for transporting goods was sometimes substantial. This ranged from 1% in Cape Town and 4% in Accra to 29% of the respondents in Kumasi and 37% in Freetown that indicated the transport of goods as in important service requirement. This is despite that fact that Kumasi, in particular, goods carrying is (in theory) prohibited. Provision of these logistics-type services may provide a valuable source of revenue for drivers and conductors beyond the fares necessary to pay daily rents, incentivising the carrying of goods in passenger vehicles.

Main findings and messages

Whether women or men are the majority users of IPT varies from city to city. As a result, it is important to understand the gender composition of users in any one city in order to understand the different needs that IPT serves.

It is not always the case that main use of IPT is to access employment. The reasons people are travelling are varied. It is therefore important to consider whether the IPT network is serving the appropriate locations that meet the trip purposes of different users.

Additionally, people of working age are curretly the predominate users of IPT and so consideration needs to be given to what extent the mobility needs of all residents within a city are being met, including those of young and older people.

Surveys found that travelling with goods was a significant feature of users mobility, with this being a requirement for women in a higher proportion of cases. The ability of IPT to cater for such encumbered mobility is a significant feature if it is to continue to meet user needs.

It was also found that people with mobility impairments and disabilities were frequently under-represented in the user surveys. Consideration needs also to be given to whether this is as a result of the lack of consideration of the mobility needs of people with disabilties in such an informal mobility system. 



13. World Bank. 2021. Connectivity for Human Capital : Realizing the Right to Education and Healthcare through Improved Public Transport in African Cities. Mobility and Transport Connectivity;. World Bank, Washington, DC..

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