Transport Sector Ministers from Ecowas Member States Endorse the New Harmonized Ecowas Road Safety Policy & Action Plan as Well as A Regional Road Safety Charter to Curb Road Traffic Crash Injuries and Fatalities.
Ministers in-charge of Transport and Road Safety activities in ECOWAS Member States met to consider recommendations from Heads of Road Safety Agencies, Transport Ministries and Road Safety Experts on actionable measures and strategies to address the alarming level of deaths being recorded (average of 6000 deaths per annum) in the ECOWAS Region. The agreed actions and strategies are contained in a new Regional Road Safety Policy and Action Plan which will guide all Member States towards an ambitious regional goal of halving road crash fatalities by the end of the next decade. The policy which is hinged on the new UN Decade of Action on Road Safety (UN General Assembly Resolution 74/299).
The well-attended sector Ministers meeting considered into detail measures adopted by their experts to improve road safety in ECOWAS Member States, under the five (5) pillars of the UN Decade of Action namely: better road safety management; Safer roads; Safer vehicles; Safer Road user behavior; and Better post-crash response.
Welcoming Honorable Ministers to the meeting, the Commissioner for Infrastructure of the ECOWAS Commission, Mr. Pathe Gueye, highlighted the gloomy situation of road traffic related deaths and injuries in the region. Mr. Gueye expressed concern by ECOWAS regaring the inadequacy of attention accorded to the issue of Road Safety at both the national and regional levels, especially among high-level decision makers. This lack of attention he said, often results in the allocation of insufficient financing to support road safety activities. The Commissioner highlighted that data from the diagnostics studies and confirmed by UN estimates show that the annual cost of road traffic accidents in West Africa is estimated at between 3-5% of GDP, notably more than what the region may receive in terms of development aid.
The Commissioner assured honorable Ministers of the thorough consultative and participative approach used in preparing the documents. The documents went through detailed expert and stakeholder reviews at validation workshops, and all observations addressed in finalizing the Regional Road Safety Policy documents. He therefore requested their endorsement to enable the Commission to conclude the adoption and signature processes. The Commissioner also called on Honorable Ministers to champion the implementation of the agreed actions under the new Regional Policy, in their respective member states, while granting the harmonized commitments in the Action Plan the required high-level attention that it deserves, in their respective national development programs.
The preparation of the new Road Safety Policy documents was implemented as part of the 11th EDF Transport Governance Project, funded by the European Union’s (EU) support to improve efficiency in the West African transport sector. The overall objective of the project is the improved sustainability and security of the regional road transport system.
The meeting was chaired by the Honorable Minister of Transport of Ghana, Mr. Kwaku Ofori Asiamah who reiterated the importance of such a harmonized regional Policy at the level of ECOWAS to ensure all Member States progress at the same pace in addressing road traffic crashes on their roads. He urged Member States to support ECOWAS and Regional institutions to support the newly prepared ECOWAS Road Safety Policy, Action Plan and Charter which establishes the necessary framework to end the incessant increase in deaths being recorded on the roads of Member States and the Region in general. The meeting was also attended by Honorable Ministers, their mandated representatives and Heads of Road Safety Agencies from Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Republic of Togo.
The Ministers meeting covered very fruitful deliberations generally supporting the initiative for a harmonized regional direction in road safety, and eventually unanimously endorsed the recommendations of the Experts, while approving the documents for further processing by ECOWAS. Some key issues highlighted covered the need to increase funding to road safety activities and the need to consider providing dedicated insurance and health services to accidents victims. The Ministers also deliberated on the issue of overaged vehicles contributing to road crashes. Member States agreed to collaborate with ECOWAS to further study this phenomenon and come up with a uniform regional regulation on the age limitations for imported vehicles. Based on the regional regulation, ECOWAS will also engage the European Union, United States of America and Asia on this subject for actions to be taken from the export side.
The ECOWAS Road Safety policy will set the regional Vision and will be accompanied by a Regional Regulation or Road Safety Charter with commitments by Member States to improve road safety through the eradication of identified risk factors. It will also have an action plan with SMART measures to usher all ECOWAS Member States to a coordinated desired result. Performance and impact monitoring and evaluation is also an integral part of the regional drive to reduce the carnage on the roads of the Community.
Finally, the regional road safety framework also includes a new ECOWAS Regional Charter on Road Safety which includes declaration by Member States to jointly implement a set of actionable activities under the respective pillars of improving road safety in the ECOWAS Commission. Once adopted by the ECOWAS Statutory bodies, the Charter will serve as a commitment by Member States to take the necessary steps to implement all the actions agreed in the Policy at their national levels.
The ECOWAS Commission, under the EU funded 11th EDF Project is also working on very critical transport governance subjects including a revised regional regulation on overloading with action plans as well as the harmonization of road design codes for cross-border projects.
“Road traffic crashes have caused more deaths on ECOWAS roads than the number of deaths resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic in the region. So, like a pandemic, the ECOWAS Commission has worked with Member States to put in place protocols and preventive measures through a common regional framework with best-practice strategies aligned with the UN Decade of Action on Road Safety 2021-2030, (Appiah C, 2021)”