The Solution to Traffic Congestion in African Cities isn’t Better Roads. It’s Telecommuting

Photo Credit: Wtop

If you live in a megacity like I do, you’ll readily admit that traffic congestions are a part of city culture.

But when you realize how much time the average worker spends on the road, commuting to and from work, it becomes clear that this is a really costly and counterproductive culture.

The truth is, for businesses to stay competitive, they must learn to adapt and respond to their environment. If a business located in a city like Lagos has workers enduring 2-4 hour commutes daily, that’s not productive. You only need to look at the number of vehicles moving from the Lagos mainland to the Island, and the amount of hours spent on such journeys, you’ll understand that, this “culture” isn’t doing anyone any favours. Not the workers, not the employers, not the government, not the environment. No one.

Lagos Traffic; and it’s not even rush hour yet

This is why, at Buffrspace, we’re strong advocates of telecommuting as the culture of the future workplace. It’s the one thing that would improve employee work-life balance, boost workplace productivity and simultaneously cut the frequency of traffic gridlock by almost half. It’s mind boggling why it’s not yet widely adopted in Lagos and other African cities but we can hazard a guess:

1. The fear of change.

2. Ignorance of just how much stressed-out employees affect company performance.

Situations where a quick 5-minute dash to another district or local government within the same city becomes a 45-minute test of endurance due to traffic jams, are no longer one-off occurrences. This issue is a huge pain point, not only in megacities like Cairo and Lagos, but city centers like Nairobi and Joburg are not excluded.

See what I mean?

City population is increasing, not reducing. So, there will be more people commuting next year, than this year. Meaning, even more epic traffic jams, which would translate into more losses for businesses and the country as a whole. This article reports that traffic congestion costs South Africa 1 billion Rand per year, on the average. Cairo loses $8 billion annually to traffic congestion (up to 4% of Egypt’s GDP) according to a World Bank study. Let’s not even get started on the carbon footprint from all those moving vehicles.

Let’s face it. Lagos isn’t going to get any watershed miracles in the transportation department any time in the next decade. There have been efforts to address the problem, through the expansion of public transportation and the better management of traffic flows, but they have not kept pace with the growth of African cities. Maybe we’ll get lucky in 2030. Maybe. But, for now, we’re stuck with inadequate infrastructure and suboptimal city arrangement and planning.

It looks like the only actionable idea right now is adoption of telecommuting. And that isn’t such a bad thing. After all the timing couldn’t be better.

I strongly believe that, a combination of telecommuting and flexible work culture is enough to improve the traffic situation in these cities, and simultaneously boost company productivity.

At the end of the day, conscious efforts to solve traffic congestion is not only a productivity issue, it is also a civic one.

Read: 3 Reasons Why Now Is The Right Time for Africa to Adopt Teleworking

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