On a recent trip to Ghana, I spent a good amount of time traversing Accra, and consequently getting stuck in traffic. Ghana is not unlike many other African and foreign cities. It boasts a growing urban population, engaged middle class, and business growth. Add to that poor urban planning and you get horrendous daily traffic. At this point Ghanaians have accepted that traffic delays are a way of life and have adjusted accordingly. Commuters try to alleviate travel headaches by getting multiple cars per household – one for each member of the family to travel independently. Having a driver also allows you to multi-task and rest while stuck in traffic. Enterprising Ghanaians are taking advantage of the congestion and the captive audience. Hawkers are a treat for any Accra tourist. You can buy everything from solar light bulbs, to children’s toys, and puppies – Yes, live puppies – in Accra traffic. Ghanaian businessman Albert Osei, founder of Koko King, launched his popular mobile breakfast business throughout Accra, mostly supported by his street carts serving Ghanaian commuters sitting in traffic.
But as much as I’m happy that budding entrepreneurs have seized the problem/opportunity that is Accra traffic, sitting ion the traffic myself, I often thought of the wider implications and possible solutions. The reality is that Accra traffic is not a good thing. Like most African countries, Ghana has fairly limited road infrastructure and a rapidly growing urban population. Just recently it was announced that with a reported population of 170 million people and a few billion dollars in GDP, Nigeria is now Africa’s biggest economy. Not having been myself (anyone want to sponsor my trip? lol), I’ve heard many horror stories about traffic in Nigeria. Nigeria’s large population, growing disposable income, and poor infrastructure will only accelerate it’s traffic problems.
If you ask any Ghanaian or Nigerian we’ll tell you that building more roads will be a welcome solution. But while we all wait for the politics and logistics of that solution to be ironed out, what about creating a wide network of delivery and courier services. Imagine a network of motorized scooters zipping through Accra traffic connecting citizens to the goods and services that they want. Instead of Ghanaians having to defend upon the city for their simple daily market visits, what if there was a distribution network of workers who ran those types of errands? In theory, besides solving the traffic congestion problem, this strategy could tap into the ballooning youth population as well. You can’t attend any Africa-focused conference these days without hearing a discussion about how to solve the youth unemployment issue. It’s been reported that Africa currently has 200 million people aged between 15 and 24, the youngest region in the world. And that youth population makes up 60% of the the unemployed in the region. Building a businesses that have low entrance rates that are scalable are one of the keys to ushering the youth population into the employment. Well a courier/ delivery network can be one avenue. Ideally, building such a network could be a way of supporting local businesses who have distribution and access problems, alleviating the strain on the limited roads we do have by connecting customers to necessary goods and services, and connecting youth to viable employment.
I’m sure there are areas of this idea and implications I haven’t considered yet so let me know what you think. Could building a network of couriers/delivery services work to help solve the traffic problem? How could this be built?