Africa Needs Buses and Trolleys

While the NGOs stay stuck as depicting Africa as a place that couldn't possibly be the source of its own junk TVs and computers - despite World Bank data and history of mass communications investments in the 1970s-90s - I thought I'd take a closer look at what we saw in Agbogbloshie.

Metropolitan bus scrap.  They have been towing junk automobiles to Agbogbloshie for so long, you even find tow truck scrap.

And motorcycle scrap, and scrap tires, and car doors.

As Africa urbanizes, you see residue not just of "mass communications" equipment or teledensity, but "mass transit".

Here's a recent article by the Economist on how entrepreneurs in Africa's "Mass Transit Sector" created a transportation economy with used vans and buses [In Praise of Matutus, 9/2015]
"Unlike bus systems in the West, matatus are neither run by a government monopoly nor by a number of large firms. Instead they tend to be owned by entrepreneurs, who pick routes and lease the vehicles out to pairs of drivers and conductors. These teams, in red and blue uniforms, work long hours to get the most out of their vehicles—typically starting at 4am."
As personal computers are to internet cafes, vans are to private vehicles.   More and more Africans are leaving internet cafes and getting their own home internet (I did it at my friends homes via cell tower and wifi last spring).

Personal vehicles in Africa are creating traffic jams, which are bad, but they are also a symbol of affluence which will foretell more paved roads, and more automobile scrap.

There is a lot more pollution from automobiles and trucks than there is from electronics.  And most of those automobiles, trucks, and buses were originally imported used, and refurbished.

What Africa needs are more buses, not arrests of people importing, repairing, or scrapping buses.

And not more exotic photojournalists taking pictures of people disassembling buses, or legislation to ban bus imports, or NGOs to collect money from donors to "solve the bus waste problem".  Africa's Transport Sector does as good of a job as its Tech Sector, according to the Economist.  That doesn't mean it has a solution to oil dumping and antifreeze flushed into Accra city gutters, or scrap tires.  But if Joe Benson is exporting used buses and vans to Africa, arresting him wouldn't solve those problems either.

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