How transportation is a key catalyst for economic growth in SA

The majority of the South African population utilise public transport daily. However, these individuals face several challenges as the state of public transport in South Africa is inefficient in many ways. In addition to the inefficiency, there’s also the lack of adequate infrastructure, particularly in townships and rural areas across the country. 

This is largely due to the rampant racial and class divide, which continues to isolate the working class commuters and those who travel around rural areas. The development of transportation infrastructure is not equally distributed in these communities as it is in urban areas. 

Ultimately, this contributes more to the inequalities that the majority of South Africans face. To solve this unfortunate disparity, financing for transport infrastructure is required. It’s one of the key catalytic tools for regional and national economic development and growth. 

Below, we’ll discuss the challenges related to public transportation, what the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) is doing to rehabilitate the state of infrastructure as well as how transportation impacts economic growth.

How transport is key in economic growth

The transportation sector is a critical engine to drive socio-economic development and growth for countries. It’s also a fundamental component of the country’s competitiveness in global markets. And, although the impact of the growth varies, depending on each country’s stage of economic development, investment in transport infrastructure can make a huge difference. It can accelerate developmental impacts such as job creation and access to basic services. 

The challenges of public transportation in SA

There are currently three main modes of transport available to the majority of South Africans; busses, trains and mini taxis. But despite this, accessibility, affordability and safety remain the biggest challenges for many. A fact to pay attention to is that the working class live paycheck to paycheck and therefore struggle to afford commuting costs. 

And, if you consider the effects of segregation, which positioned employees far from their places of work, it means that they have many kilometres to cover in their commute to and from work. 

In addition to that, the transportation modes available are typically old, damaged and inadequate to safely perform the task of delivering commuters to their destinations. They’re often overcrowded, which endangers the lives of the people they carry. The roads, rails, train and bus stations lack the resources required for optimal service delivery. 

Transport legislation in South Africa was established with the goal of improving and promoting a better public transport service for all those who use it. Despite all efforts, the circumstances around public transport remain challenging. The state of public transport in South Africa during COVID-19 further highlighted how urgent intervention is needed. At a time where citizens are meant to practise social distancing as per the rules and regulations set out to combat the spread of COVID-19, public transport remained overcrowded and inefficient.

DBSA’s role in the transportation sector

As the Development Bank of Southern Africa, we act as a support system for the government to assist in driving initiatives aimed at infrastructure development. DBSA’s function within this sector is to pursue infrastructure investment for projects tailored for the development of bridges, roads, bus stations, railways, terminals, airports, seaports, border ports and more. 

DBSA is committed to investing in public transport networks to ensure safe, efficient and green transport systems. We’re also committed to supporting the government in its quest to meet the goals stipulated in the National Transport Master Plan 2050 and the Public Transport Strategy. 

Final thoughts

Transport infrastructure plays a critical role in the transition from a low to middle to a high-income economy. Channelling investments towards the development of well-functioning infrastructure will benefit the country on a regional, nation and international level. 

The DBSA, in collaboration with other stakeholders, is already doing the work, and we’ll use all the resources available to us to improve the efforts of development and growth in this sector.