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TRANSITIONS Informal Transport Compendium Report

A literature review to establish the ‘state of knowledge’ and appraisal of gaps requiring further research

The aim of this first output of the TRANSITIONS project was to review the state of knowledge in the field of Informal Public Transport in Sub-Saharan African cities and to identify important gaps in knowledge from the perspective of formulating policy interventions with prospects for delivering low-carbon, affordable and safe mass transport. The literature search used keywords and prominent author searches, in relation to nine topics and six cities (Accra, Cape Town, Freetown, Harare, Kumasi and Maputo), and yielded 386 publications.


From the review of these publications, it is clear that the informal transport industry is complex, heterogeneous, and multi-sectoral in nature. Fierce ‘in the market’ competition for passengers, and the cash nature of businesses, creates problems for employment conditions, service quality, fleet renewal, and environmental impact. 

But the sector also offers real benefits and competitive value. Policy interventions to improve operating environments for informal transport vehicles have been relatively few, with most focussed on replacing them with formal mass transit. Encouragingly though, in some cities at least, policy positions have shifted from replacement to integration and upgrade. There are no transferable panacea solutions from within or outside the sub-continent. Grounded solutions are required, and in this regard the recent growth in research activity observed in the review (more than half of the publications were published within the past five years) is welcome.

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