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Public Transport status and degree of integration with the informal sector

In most African cities Informal Public Transport services are offered next to or in competition with other (types) of informal or formal operators including those offering bus and rail services. Sometimes they share official public transport (interchange) facilities. Even though co-existing, the level of co-ordination between informal operators themselves, as well as between the IPT sector and formal bus or rail operators, is often non-existing or lacking. In these circumstances, achieving full integration of public and shared mobility, at the level of routes, frequencies, timetables, fares and payment systems, feels a distant prospect.



As described in the preceding sections, IPT operators are typically subject to at least some degree of regulation by public authorities, as well as self-regulation that occurs between different unions and associations. Despite this, achieving integration with other informal operators and with formal bus and rail operators will be more complicated than in the case of two or more formal, regulated, systems. 

Public transport integration is usually undertaken with the purpose of facilitating seamless, multi-operator passenger journeys. Integration thereby includes the organisation of modes and services into a rational system of operational features in terms of routes, frequencies, timetables, fares and ticketing, as well as policy aspects, such as planning, marketing and development. In this regard, it is possible to distinguish at least five levels of possible co-ordination integration:

  • 1) physical integration thereby establishing transfer points between networks;

  • 2) fare integration;

  • 3) information integration;

  • 4) institutional integration whereby the public sector is involved somehow; and

  • 5) inter-operator integration whereby two or more parties integrated routes and/or fares.[22] 

The ultimate goal of any type of integration could be to enhance 1) reliability, security and comfort of the transfer, 2) minimize travel and transfer times, and/or to 3) reduce cost and discomfort of (inter-operator) transfers.  Integration therefore seeks to achieve these aims by creating transfer of data/information and physical interchanges between informal operators and/or between informal and formal operators, by applying any combination of the five levels of integration.  


In Sub-Saharan Africa, the practice of integration has so far only really happened at the level of physical integration at or near interchange facilities between bus, rail and informal services. Additionally, there are a few cases where informal operators share routes and help each other out during periods of high demand. In the case of South Africa there is a statutory requirement for integrated transport planning including service routing and the siting of stations and public transport interchanges[23]. Several attempts to integrate Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems with informal systems only succeeded at the level of providing complementary feeder type services to create so-called hybrid systems. A successful case of modal integration and transfer relates to ‘first and last mile’ connectivity to and from rail and BRT services in Gauteng, South Africa, where reasonable integration with the formal services is observed, although the integration with informal transport services remains weak.[24] In Dar es Salaam integration between BRT and daladala services is accommodated in some end-of-line terminals and in-line stations, but here too integration with informal feeder routes remains largely incomplete.[25]

Comparison of situations and perspectives from the TRANSITIONS cities

All five TRANSITIONS cities have formal public transport systems operating next to informal systems, such as the Sierra Leone Road Transport Corporation and several ferry routes in Freetown or the MyCiTi BRT system and a regular bus service (GABS) in Cape Town. There are plenty opportunities for improvements to the integration of the systems. Nevertheless, the stakeholder interviews undertaken in all five cities show that there is hardly any co-ordination, let alone integration, between the formal and informal systems. 

Route licensing approaches introduced here would represent a first step towards coordination and integration, by preventing damaging competition between modes on key corridors and defining key interchanges. This would require the poor levels of enforcement observed, particularly in Accra, Kumasi and Freetown, to be improved.   Reasons for the lack of integration typically relate to lack of trust, bad image, lack of transparency and fragmentation of the informal industry.

Main findings and messages

Public transport integration enables improvements in the ease and efficiency of taking public transport (formal and informal) for passengers in terms of time, cost, comfort, safety, access and accessibility, and convenience. 

The informal, self-regulatory and fragmented nature of IPT systems, by definition poses a challenge to achieving the different possible forms of integration: physical integration of route networks; route planning information; fares.


Physical integration, at public transport interchanges, is the most feasible kind of integration that has been achieved (at least to some extent) in metropolitan areas in South Africa and Tanzania.

Further resources

  • Chengula, D. H., Kombe, K. (2017). Assessment of the Effectiveness of Dar es Salaam Bus Rapid Transit (DBRT). International Journal of Sciences, 36, 10-30.  

  • Venter, C., Barrett, I., Zuidgeest, M., Cheure, N. (2020). Public transport system design and modal integration in Sub-Saharan African Cities. Position paper: The state of knowledge and research. Volvo Research and Educational Foundations (VREF) 



22. Rivasplata, C., 2006. An Analysis of the Impacts of British Reforms on Transit Integration in the Metropolitan Areas. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of California, Davis; AND Rivasplata, C. (2008). Public transport integration in a privatized market–Recent policy lessons from abroad. CODATU XIII Conference, November 12–14. Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. 

23. Venter, C., Barrett, I., Zuidgeest, M., Cheure, N., 2020. Public transport system design and modal integration in Sub-Saharan African Cities. Position paper: The state of knowledge and research. Volvo Research and Educational Foundations (VREF) 

24. Adewumi, E.,  Allopi, D., 2014. An appropriate Bus Rapid Transit System. The International Journal of Science & Technology. 3(4): 248-254  

25. Chengula, D. H., Kombe, K. 2017. Assessment of the Effectiveness of Dar es Salaam Bus Rapid Transit (DBRT). International Journal of Sciences, 36, 10-30: AND Venter et al. 2020 (see Endnote 18)

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