A Transport Professional’s Perception of the Concept of Inclusivity in Two African Cities

As developing economies, many African cities are faced with the predicament of developing a transport system that can address the needs of the surging population. Rapid urbanization has put a lot of pressure on scarce and inadequate infrastructure, creating poverty, exclusion and high levels of inequality, poor access to mobility, urban resources, infrastructure, and other services. The groups that are mostly affected are those living in low-income communities and People Living with Disabilities (PLWD), who were faced with limited or no access to urban services; healthcare, social networks, opportunities, and so on, (Ugboma, 2020).

The case of Lagos State, one of the fastest-growing economies and megacities in the world is no different. According to Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA, 2016), the body empowered by the government with the responsibility of reforming the transport system to a world-class integrated model befitting an emerging megacity, about 65% of Lagos population is poor and relies on the public transport system for their daily commuting while 52% of households in Lagos own no cars. Furthermore, the daily passenger demand for public transport is estimated to be more than 20 million of which 40% of the passenger traffic embarks on walking. This implies that most households in Lagos depend on public transport for mobility and accessibility.

Over the years, Lagos State Government (LSG) has vigorously pursued transport reforms to alleviate the myriads of mobility and accessibility challenges of Lagosians. These interventions include the introduction of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on dedicated bus corridors, free rides on BRT and LAGBUS buses, Light Rail projects, and the development of new jetties to promote water transportation, the Lagos State Special People’s Law which constituted the Lagos State Office for Disability Affairs (LASODA) to uphold the rights of PLWD in the state, protect them from any form of discrimination, giving them equal rights and opportunities, the Non-Motorized Transport (NMT) and so on. Albeit, these alleviations, the level of transport inequality and inaccessibility is palpable, especially for people living in low-income communities and more for PLWD. In many parts of the state (particularly on Lagos Mainland), inner roads are in deplorable conditions with filthy open drainages, which makes movement difficult for wheelchair users (increases travel time) and equally dangerous. Pedestrians and cycling accesses are non-existent, where there are pavements, they are poorly maintained, taken over by street trading, parked container trucks, or used by commercial motorcyclists (okadas) as thoroughfare when there is traffic congestion on the roads. Other challenges include, the lack of ramps at some of the bus stops to enable people to push buggies, and trolleys, using walking frames or wheelchairs, lack of aids at the street crossing, for the sensory impaired, and general unsafe local traffic behavior. The bad behavior of drivers of yellow buses (danfos) is also one of the major challenges PLWD face in the state as they are so impatient that they do not allow commuters with a disability to board or alight buses with ease and safety. It should be noted that the danfos, classified as informal public transport operators commute about 45% of the total daily passenger trips against that of the buses operating under the BRT franchise which stands at 3%. These BRT buses equally lack assistive facilities that limit the boarding and disembarkment of PLWD. The reserved seats on the buses marked for the elderly, disabled, or pregnant women get occupied by regular commuters who would not give access to any commuter in that group and who would also not be challenged by the bus driver. Other commuters in wheelchairs, would be carried into the buses rather than gliding on ramps aboard the buses. Considering all these difficulties in commuting from one place to another, mobility for PLWD is nothing short of an unpleasant experience with feelings of frustration, intimidation, anger, shame, stigmatization, and so on.

Moving from bus urban transportation to the airport environment, one may think that mobility would be easier and more inclusive. However, that was not the case at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) – the escalators were not functional, therefore, people in wheelchairs and others with special needs were carried up and down flights of stairs. At the checking-in area, the conveniences were accessible but once you are in the boarding area, you would have to again descend flights of stairs to access the conveniences. I traveled to Dakar towards the end of September on Air Cote d’Ivoire, though, it was a smaller aircraft than others that I had used, I noticed the aircraft was not attached to the Passenger Boarding Bridge, passengers had to use the staircase, walked right across the tarmac unto the aircraft. It was the same ordeal on the return trip.

As passengers with special needs continue to lament over the non-functionality of infrastructure in the MMIA, the recently built state-of-the-art MMIA Terminal 2 (to complement terminal 1), yet to be operational, grapples with controversies about the apron space challenge. The challenge had been known from inception but the plan involved the demolition of surrounding buildings in the vicinity to construct a wide enough apron space to meet an international airport standard. As it were, there are reports that legal tussles are stalling the terminal’s completion.

Walk Alley, O.R. Tambo airport       Source: Ugboma, O. (2022)

Coming into O.R. Tambo international airport, Johannesburg from MMIA Lagos seemed like a paradox. Without mincing words, the difference was clear. The access ways were very wide for an inclusive population, the escalators and elevators were all functional, you only needed to make a choice of which to use, exit to ground transportation was quite accessible too.

Walk Alley, O.R. Tambo airport       Source: Ugboma, O. (2022)

My final destination was Durban, so I decided to take a road trip to further audit the inclusive infrastructure. At the bus station in Johannesburg, it was pleasant to notice that the ticketing windows were low enough for everyone to reach without assistance.

Bus Station, Johannesburg. Source: Ugboma, O. (2022)

The places I noticed non-compliance were the female restroom which had stairs and no ramp, while boarding the bus, I noticed it had no step-free access for those on wheelchairs, there was a gap between the pavement and the bus platform. However, it was good to know that one had the option of staying down without using the stairs or you can stay up for it was a double-decker bus.

However, inside the bus was very clean with comfortable chairs, functional seatbelts, an air conditioner, and convenience (though it was messed up afterward). An incident occurred while in transit, one of the passengers smoked marijuana inside the toilet preventing others from using it due to the smoke and strong smell, the driver had to stop the bus, and admonished the young man severely, not sure what transpired outside the bus but the young man behaved himself throughout the journey.

One thing I must commend the South African government for is the good state of roads in the country. The journey between Johannesburg and Durban was so smooth even with the stops in some towns to pick up passengers. The driver was not reckless, not speeding and the assistant would come to the cabin from time to time to check on the passengers. The same good condition of roads equally applied to the few places I visited in Durban town. The most amazing was how well the taxis (equivalent to danfos) were maintained. I did not see any rickety-looking taxis in town, even when I visited the taxi rank, not only was the park environment well-kept but they were all parked in an orderly manner.

Taxi Rank, Durban. Source: Ugboma, O. (2022)

Be that as it may, the two cities still have some attributes in common, in the one hand is the issue of poor accessibility of PLWD to these buses and on the other hand, impatience, and poor driver behavior. On several occasions, I saw these drivers jump red lights at intersections and one nearly ran over school children at a zebra crossing.

The plan of making cities accessible for everyone is the starting point to achieving true equity and inclusion. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development asserts that disability cannot be a reason or criterion for lack of access to social networks, life chances, services, social capital, and so on. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) contain seven targets that explicitly discuss persons with disabilities, and another set of six targets for persons in vulnerable situations, which include persons with disabilities. The development and provision of infrastructural facilities for PLWD in a transport network is not just pertinent, it goes beyond mere accessibility for wheelchair users. Though investment in accessible transport infrastructure for the social and economic integration of PLWD is quite expensive, it is not a justification to exclude a large and increasing proportion of the population from active engagement in society. Fortunately, various governments have initiatives to provide solutions to accessible transportation but one of the major challenges is the lack of implementation.


Ugboma, O., (2020), “Public Transport Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities in Lagos Metropolis”, Lagos State University Journal of Transport, Vol. 3, Issue 1, Pp. 1-13.


Dr. Ogochukwu Ugboma is an outstanding academic and professional in Transport, Logistics, and Supply Chain Management. She is a Senior Lecturer and Head of the Department of Transport Management and Operations at the School of Transport and Logistics, Lagos State University, Nigeria. Her research interests include social impacts of transport on urban low-income communities, medical/healthcare logistics in informal communities, mobility challenges of women and people with special needs, Last-mile logistics of food value chains, sustainability and resilience of supply chains, data analytics in transport operations, seaport efficiency and productivity, and so on. She facilitates transport and logistics programs for the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) and other logistics firms in building capacity for the industry. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT); a Fellow of, the African Centre for Supply Chain; a Member, of the World Conference on Transport Research Society (WCTRS); a Member, of the International Network of Transport Accessibility of Low-Income Communities (INTALInC); Member, Women in Logistics and Transport (WILAT); Member, Women in ITS (UK); Member, Expert Pool of African Research Centre for Excellence in Supply Chain Management (ARC_ESM); a Certified Supply Chain Analyst. She has worked on various state and private projects namely, the Kaduna State  Bus Mass Transit; Volvo Education and Research Foundations (VREF) project on E-hailing Transport Study in selected cities in East, West, and South Africa; Volvo Education and Research Foundations (VREF) project on the Study of the Causal Relationship between Overlapping Quadruple Governance Authorities and the Perennial Traffic Gridlock in Apapa; Transport Blueprint Development Commissioned by National Universities Commission (NUC); Lagos State University Strategic Plan and Review; Traffic Impact Assessment of Escravos Industrial and Residential City (ESIRC), and so on. She is widely published.

She is currently a visiting research scholar with the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) for Inclusive Cities hosted by the University of KwaZulu Natal, Durban, and chaired by Prof. H. H. Magidimisha-Chipungu under the Mobility Visit Grant of Volvo Research and Educational Foundations (VREF).

Ogochukwu Ugboma Ph.D.
Lagos State University

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