Transforming Urban Transport- The Role of Political Leadership

Pilot Program

Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) Pilot Phase

1 July 2018 – 30 September 2019


Video of Dar es Salaam by Lily Song

Amidst rapid urbanization and motorization in Africa, many cities in the region are facing escalating challenges of traffic congestion, air pollution, and road traffic crashes and injuries. Besides insufficient public transportation infrastructure and services, spatial patterns of peri-urbanization and sprawling metropolitan development increase travel burdens and greenhouse gas emissions. Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, faces acute challenges in urban transport and land use planning that require urgent policy and planning responses. Moreover, the specificities of politics and urbanization— i.e. growing role of international donors and Chinese foreign investment, weak institutional structures, limited technical capacity, rife corruption, tribal and ethnic divisions— complicate the adoption of change policies. This project seeks to extend the TUT-POL research framework and its findings about the role of political leadership and governance in the implementation of path-breaking transportation policies in major cities around the world to inform—and re-calibrate—our understanding about transportation improvements, including their lack thereof, in sub-Saharan African cities. By raising awareness of the challenges and possibilities of transforming urban mobility and access, we further aim to encourage greater creativity in deliberations.

Image of Dar es Salaam by Lily Song

Image of Dar es Salaam by Lily Song

Key Research Questions

  • Where, when, and how have political leadership and governance been critical to the successful implementation of path-breaking transportation policies in sub-Saharan African cities?

  • What barriers (financial, political, leadership, and otherwise) prevent more fundamental urban transportation reforms, and how can they be transcended?

  • In what ways has the changing political economy of governance (democratization and decentralization reforms; pressures to develop global cityscapes; accelerating foreign investment in infrastructure) affected transportation and land use decision-making?

  • What types of strategies and tactics will be most likely to produce innovations in urban transportation and land use planning;?

  • To what extent can urban transport innovations be marshalled to enhance local institutional capacity and greater political accountability?


Deliverables from the Pilot Phase

  1. Dissemination/training event for transport experts and city representatives to use TUT-POL research findings to promote and undertake transformative transport policy changes in SSA.

  2. Pilot case studies (2) to investigate key research questions and yield insights on the opportunities and challenges of transferring/applying TUT-POL to SSA.

  3. International workshop to consider how the TUT-POL framework could be further transferred to Sub-Saharan African cities and local university-based research center.

Image of Dar es Salaam by Lily Song

Image of Dar es Salaam by Lily Song


Project Leadership and Organization

  • Project Initiator and Principal Funder: Volvo Research and Educational Foundations (VREF)

  • Coordinating Partner: German Development Agency (GIZ/TUMI) (in-kind/partial funding support)

  • Principal Investigator: Prof. Diane E. Davis,, Harvard Graduate School of Design

  • Senior Project Staff: Lily Song, Lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Design

  • Primary Research Partners: Faculty-led research teams from a range of African Universities (TBD)