November 8, 2021
Sustainable Transport Sector in LMICs: Challenges and Solutions
contributor: Omar Kheir
Transport systems in low- and middle-income countries remain unable to meet the needs of the poorest and remote communities where people lack access to basic needs. Low-income countries in particular face extreme difficulties regarding inadequate transport infrastructure, including limited capabilities and lack of security and safety reflected in road fatalities. The issue deserves attention not least because the transport sector is a primary engine of economic growth and a source of job opportunities. While upgrading and transforming transportation systems, however, sustainability should be a design element by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Connectivity in Rural Areas
The first issue to address is connecting rural to urban areas through the development of targeted transport systems, increasing access to education, employment and healthcare. Commercial small-scale farmers as well as local businesses in those local areas would benefit greatly by reducing costs and increasing their ability to compete with urban businesses.
Shift in Policies and Budget Allocations
Any policies relating to transport should maximize the percentage of the beneficiaries (population and local businesses) per expenditure which include affordable public transport, walkability, biking and alternative systems that serve the public. Modern urban planning is another necessity that local governments need to tackle. Contrary to common belief, developing countries should allocate at least as much of their budget to transportation as developed countries do, as the sector is the foundation of every other sector in the economy.
Budgeting should also be accompanied with the ease or complete removal of restrictions. Minimalizing bureaucratic procedures will allow operators to select the most efficient routes and means of transportation, hence, reducing energy consumption.
Role of the private sector
The private sector has an equal role to the public sector in fostering innovation in the transport sector, as it is one of the key beneficiaries of reduced costs. In addition to the financial investments that are needed from the sector, innovation and creativity are equally needed.
Innovation target: the shared economy
The concept of a shared economy has been increasingly popular in the global West, for the most part, specifically in delivery services and private transportation. These services are exactly where the private sector in low- and middle-income countries can step up the innovation. The shared economy business model could be re-molded to fit the needs of those areas suffering from the lack of connectivity. New services could emerge offering the transport of goods for an aggregate of small businesses that are concentrated among specific areas or along specific corridors. The concept could be shifted into a network that connects areas with business interests.
The challenges are tremendous, with many factors involved, but the opportunity is equally as great. The stimulation of economic growth, increase in education, better access to healthcare, connectivity and better integration with neighboring regions and countries would be key to the sustainability and future stability of developing countries.
About the Author
Omar Kheir is an expert in process improvement, optimization and inventory management at EPCOM, and a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. He creates innovative solutions to engineering and business challenges.