Poverty in Southeastern Mexico
In Mexico, a 900-plus-mile rail project called El Tren Maya (the Mayan Train) brings hope for reduced poverty in the country. The railway, estimated to cost $6.5 billion at the time of the announcement of the project in 2019, will run through five states in Southeastern Mexico and connect everything between Cancún and the Mayan archaeological site at Palenque. Since 2019, the project has been met with both support and concern: while many praise its ability to create jobs, increase tourism and alleviate poverty in Southeastern Mexico, others have questioned its potential impacts on the region’s rural and Indigenous communities.

The Mayan Train Project

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador proposed the Mayan Train project shortly after his inauguration in 2018, stating that it would be “an act of justice” for the country’s poverty-stricken southeastern states. In 2020, the World Bank reported that almost 44% of the country lived under the national poverty line.

Mexico’s poorest states are located in the south of the country. According to the London School of Economics and Political Science, Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca stand as the poorest states — official 2016 poverty data from CONEVAL indicates that about 71% of people across these three states endured poverty, which is significantly higher than the national average of 44%.

López Obrador is not the first Mexican President to take an interest in improving the country’s railroad infrastructure. In 2012, former President Enrique Peña Nieto aimed to construct a railway connecting Cancún to Mérida, but budget cuts halted the project.

Initial funding for the Mayan Train project came from Mexico’s National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism (FONATUR), which issued a €1 billion contract to a consortium of companies in 2021. The project consists of several phases, with plans to both incorporate existing tracks and build new ones. FONATUR has pledged to use federal land for all new construction. In a November 2019 public referendum, 89.9% of the Mexican voters who participated voted in favor of the project.

Project Positives

Those working on the project have estimated that the train will serve 8,000 passengers a day and will attract 3 million people in its initial years of operation. Alstom Transport Mexico, one of the companies involved in the construction, anticipates that the project will immediately generate more than 11,000 jobs and “boost economic growth in the southeast.”

A U.N.-Habitat analysis of the Mayan Train’s larger potential impact concluded that the project would ultimately generate some 945,000 new jobs in the region while enhancing access to education and the labor market. This would help to reduce poverty in Southeastern Mexico and Mexico as a whole, where the unemployment rate stood at 2.9% (more than a million people) in January 2023 and nearly 4 million people lived in poverty in 2020.

Concerns among Indigenous Communities

Despite the project’s projected ability to alleviate unemployment and poverty in Southeastern Mexico, there are some concerns, specifically among Mexico’s Indigenous communities. In 2020, 69.5% of Mexico’s Indigenous population lived in poverty, mainly in the country’s southern states. In 2020, the Mayan communities of Campeche issued a petition, signed by 268,000 people, to the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources requesting the suspension of the Mayan Train project.

Members of the Regional Indigenous Council of Xpujil stated that the communities did not receive “timely and sufficient information to give their consent” to the construction. Their concerns centered on the environmental impact of the Mayan Train project and its potential threat to the conservation of sacred lands. Indigenous communities have also expressed concern that the project will only benefit tourists and the wealthy.

Looking Ahead

Addressing these concerns, the U.N. estimates that 46% of the nearly 1 million jobs generated by the Mayan Train will benefit Indigenous peoples. FONATUR and U.N.-Habitat have also collaborated to develop a set of urban planning and design guidelines aimed at ensuring environmental responsibility, social inclusion and equitable benefit across the region’s communities.

A sign of progress and hope for Southeastern Mexico, construction of the Mayan Train resumed in late 2022, with plans for the first segment of the railroad to begin operating in December 2023.

Audrey Gaines
Photo: Flickr

Metro Railway
Despite being one of 46 countries included in the current U.N. List of Least Developed Countries, Bangladesh has experienced strong economic growth in recent years. In 2021, the country’s GDP growth rate stood at 6.9%. The construction of the first metro railway in Bangladesh has the potential to boost the economy, improve quality of life and reduce poverty among the 35 million people who live below the poverty line as of 2022.

Dhaka Metro Rail

Bangladesh’s first metro railway line is undergoing development in the capital city of Dhaka. The government-owned company Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited (DMTCL) was incorporated in June 2013 to oversee the rail network’s construction. The company aims to “reduce traffic congestion” by establishing a “state-of-the-art public transport system” that is “environment-friendly” and “time-saving.”

The Time-bound Action Plan 2030 that the Government of Bangladesh formulated outlines that six Mass Rapid Transit train routes spanning 128.741 kilometers across Dhaka and its adjoining neighborhoods will undergo construction by 2030. The first phase of Line 6 has already reached completion and opened in December 2022, carrying 3,857 passengers on day one of operation. By the time the project reaches completion, a projected 103 stations will be running, 52 of which will be underground. A loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency will fund the majority of the $5.2 billion project and the Government of Bangladesh will fund the remainder of the costs.

Reducing Congestion and Pollution

Bangladesh continues to experience high levels of population growth annually, with a current 2023 population of about 170 million. According to the CIA World Fact Book, the population of the industrialized city of Dhaka has grown from about 21.7 million to an estimated 23.2 million in 2023.

Increasing job opportunities in Dhaka have been attracting an increasing number of people to Bangladesh’s metropolitan capital, contributing to congestion and overpopulation in the area. The metro rail line will help to reduce congestion and pollution and improve the city’s air quality, which is currently among the worst in the world. Although transport accounts for slightly less than 10% of Bangladesh’s greenhouse gas emissions, carbon emissions and traffic-related pollution are major concerns and the metro rail will curb this by allowing for more environmentally friendly travel.

The electricity-powered metro rail will also reduce both the likelihood of traffic accidents and travel costs, affording commuters an economical and efficient alternative to traveling by bus or car. According to a World Bank report, people lose around 3.2 working hours daily in Dhaka due to congestion and slow driving speeds. To help alleviate potential congestion around train stations, experts advise that a wider network of efficient public transport, including improved bus services, undergo development in tandem with the new rail line.

Impact on the Bangladesh Labor Market

The metro railway in Bangladesh will have several benefits for Bangladesh’s labor market, the first of which is increased labor mobility. Labor mobility refers to the level of ease with which workers can move between jobs (within an economy) or to different areas (into other economies) to get to work. The development of an efficient public transport system in Dhaka will increase the mobility of Bangladeshi workers, making a wider variety of jobs accessible to a larger number of people, especially those in remote, rural areas.

The construction of the rail line itself will likely create around 12,000 jobs for engineers in Bangladesh in addition to generating jobs for the staff who will operate and maintain the metro stations, trains and parking facilities. The construction will also benefit local businesses, such as the Bangladesh-based company McDonald Steel Building Products, which produced the roof trusses that builders are using for the train stations. The metro will benefit smaller businesses by providing a new market for the sale of goods and provisions in and around stations.

The first metro railway in Bangladesh will have several positive environmental, social and economic effects on the country, particularly in the city of Dhaka, where it will operate. By providing a more economical and efficient mode of transportation, the metro rail will help create a more productive and mobile workforce while improving workers’ quality of life. Travel will be more environmentally friendly, traffic congestion and pollution will reduce and newly-generated jobs will boost the national economy while reducing poverty rates. A symbol of the economic development that Bangladesh has seen in recent years, the metro rail will help to promote continued economic growth into the future.

Sophie Sadera
Photo: Flickr

Transport Poverty in Nigeria
Transport poverty is where people are unable to satisfy their daily needs and activities due to lack of access to transport, unavailability of transport, the high cost of traveling, long time spent traveling and the inadequacy of transport travel conditions. “Essentially, transport poverty limits the quality of life as a consequence of being unable to access transport services.” The World Economic Forum concluded that a discussion of “inclusion and opportunities” must include a component such as transport and mobility. It said further that inclusive access to transport and mobility would create more opportunities for the advancement and promotion of the overall economic health of communities. Here is some information about transport poverty in Nigeria.

A Prevalent Issue in Developing Countries

While transport poverty occurs in developed countries, it is more prevalent in developing countries. Mobility plays a huge role in the volume of movement of persons, goods and services. The lack of access to vehicle ownership or mobility in developing countries, therefore, leads to poor quality of life for the most vulnerable groups of people especially “low-income earners, women, the elderly, persons with disabilities and young people,” according to Liftango.

In Nigeria, about 80% of mobility depends on road transportation. Owning a car/vehicle, therefore, contributes heavily to a person’s economic and social well-being. According to available records, Nigeria has a total of 11.8 million cars. In a country of more than 200 million people, the vehicle per population ratio is just about 0.06.

The yearly demand for cars in Nigeria is more than 700,000. The local car manufacturing companies produce just 14,000 cars per year. In order to meet this demand, the government had to reduce the tariff on the importation of cars from 35% to 5%, Techpoint Africa reports. Even with this reduction, most Nigerians, especially the low-income groups, women and those who live in rural areas are unable to buy cars.

Moove’s Intervention

As part of the efforts to address this glaring transport poverty in Nigeria, Jide Odunsi and Ladi Delano established Moove in 2020. Moove’s vision is to “build the largest integrated vehicle financing platform for Mobility entrepreneurs using technology and future productivity.” Apart from that, Moove also aims “to drive productivity and success for the world’s mobility entrepreneurs by democratizing access to vehicle ownership” thereby changing people’s lives.

Moove provides “revenue-based vehicle financing and financial services to mobility entrepreneurs.” This way it’s “creating sustainable employment opportunities to empower those otherwise excluded from financial services by embedding its alternative credit scoring technology onto ride-hailing, e-logistics and instant delivery platforms, and using proprietary performance and revenue analytics to underwrite vehicle loans.”

Moove’s Partnership

Moove has expanded beyond Lagos to six other African cities and other parts of the world. This expansion and the mission of Moove attracted the attention of British International Investments (BII). Mid-last year, Moove received an investment of $20 million from the BII to boost its operations in Nigeria. At the event to mark the start of the partnership, BII’s spokesperson, Nick O’Donohoe “not only will BII’s investments help to create jobs and provide entrepreneurial self-starters with the means to own their own vehicles, but Moove’s clear focus on gender diversity will foster inclusive economic opportunities for women, both within the company’s workforce and among its drivers,” IT News Africa reports.

Delano, who is co-founder of Moove, stated at that event, that with this new funding, they were in a better position to use their technology and productivity data to create “a more inclusive financing ecosystem, whilst also tackling the unemployment problem affecting over a third of Nigerians by generating the opportunities for more seamless and sustainable employment.”

Using fintech to democratize car ownership and empower a greater number of people to live a better quality of life is a great innovation that Moove made with support from BII. The huge population of Nigeria offers a vast market for mobility entrepreneurs whose earnings have ripple effects on their families and relatives. This is an efficient approach to eradicating transport poverty in Nigeria.

– Friday Okai
Photo: Flickr

Transport Poverty
RideTandem is a London startup that focuses on serving the needs of workers who lack proper transportation to their jobs. Using RideTandem’s official app, employers and workers can prepare ride-sharing routes to and from work, making it easier to fund sustainable commutes. One of RideTandem’s key challenges is finding ways to address and reduce transport poverty in the northern United Kingdom. Here is some information about RideTandem’s work and transport poverty in the U.K.

RideTandem’s Commuting Solution

Alex Shapland-Howes, Tatseng Chiam and Huw McLeod founded RideTandem in 2019 to connect workers, employers and local transport providers. The service helps people get to work in hard-to-reach areas where the cost of transportation may not be financially feasible. Shapland-Howes refers to this issue as “transport poverty.”

Shapland-Howes described his motivations for starting the app in an interview with BBC, stating “I’ve met cleaners who are taking taxis to work every single day, using their whole first hour’s wage just to get to work because there’s literally no other option. I’ve met other people, Dads who are turning down jobs because they literally have no way to get there because the bus route got cut a few years ago.”

The RideTandem app functions similarly to taxi services like Uber and Lyft. Users can input their desired destination into the app and the app will create a smart route that matches the user with others who are traveling in the same direction. This way, users can split the cost of their commute by ride-sharing.

RideTandem has both economic and environmental benefits. The service has an average passenger load of 20 people compared to taxis and commuter cars which carry 1.16 passengers on average. RideTandem also assists employers who are struggling to recruit workers by offering their shuttle services, which then benefits the various local transport services that work through the app.

Transport Poverty in the UK

RideTandem’s mission is to breach the barriers and gaps that transport poverty causes for people with low incomes. Transport poverty is a term used to describe individuals with low access to personal or public transportation. Three main factors influencing transport poverty are “the way people are distributed, the way opportunities are distributed and how accessible the transport system is.”

Socio-economic barriers are a primary cause of transport inequalities. In 2019, NatCen Social Research and the U.K. Department of Transport reported that “the impacts of transport poverty are worst for poorer people in rural areas.” The relatively lower population density of rural areas makes transportation costs higher and less accessible, considering that job opportunities and other services are more spread out.

In the U.K., the distribution of large cities reveals a divide between its north and south regions; a divide that generates transport inequality. The northern U.K. largely consists of farmland in contrast to the south which has more population and is more industrialized. Similarly, the north and south U.K. labor markets indicate the regional divide. The Office for National Statistics reported that the region with the lowest employment rate was the North-East (70.9%) and the region with the highest rate was the South-West (79.1%) between January and March 2022.

People in the south “can access up to seven times as many jobs” by public transport. The northern region is less populated than the south, explaining the reduced number of opportunities for workers. Nonetheless, improvements are necessary to serve the many citizens who travel 45 minutes on average to get to work.

Most developments in transportation across the U.K. are only visible in its southern regions and its larger cities. For example, the U.K. is undergoing the construction of an integrated train system called the High Speed 2 (HS2) with railways leading north from London through the eastern midlands where it reaches U.K. cities like Birmingham, Crewe and Manchester. One proposed extension of the railway was to lead it further north toward cities like Leeds, but the plan has since been scrapped for the time being. Northern critics of the HS2 believe the extension to be unnecessary and expensive. Supporters highlight the value of high-speed travel, fueling pressure to expand the line to towns like Leigh, where HS2 users will have to travel 35 minutes to the nearest bus station in Wigan, once the railway opens.

The Solution

RideTandem takes advantage of the lack of accessible travel options in the northern U.K. to generate support for its service. RideTandem grants employers the ability to widen their workforce and the company provides performance statistics to gauge staffing numbers. The app benefits potential workers who might otherwise be unable to afford transportation to jobs. Additionally, RideTandem’s services extend to providing better access to education by arranging similar routes to universities.

RideTandem’s execution has been successful at alleviating transport poverty in the U.K. in the two years it has been active. The startup’s revenue grew 10-fold each year since the project’s inception and in 2022, it raised £1.75 million in seed funding from investment companies like 1818 Venture Capital, Conduit Connect and the Low Carbon Innovation Fund. By practicing sustainable transportation, the company has offset 556 metric tonnes of CO2 emissions since 2021. RideTandem has effectively generated more than £10 million for its passengers who might otherwise be unable to find work due to transport poverty in the U.K.

Evan Lemole
Photo: Flickr

South Africa Introduces Solar-Powered BusesEvery year, the talk of rising carbon emissions and how to combat rising carbon emissions surfaces. Many organizations have proposed various solutions; however, alternative solutions to fossil fuels are never viable due to the financial impact on consumers. Combating carbon emissions will require everyone, from the average consumer to companies, to make small changes in order to make the world a better place. Golden Arrow, a South African bus company based in Cape Town, is working to make a difference by introducing solar-powered buses, which make transport affordable while helping the environment.

South Africa and Bus Transportation

Currently, nearly 21.1% of all South African households rely on buses for transportation. Additionally, nearly one million South Africans use the bus to get to and from work. However, there are numerous problems plaguing the bus transportation system in South Africa currently.

Right now, rural South Africans do not get access to bus transportation because buses do not cover certain routes. As such, these groups are required to walk long distances to reach their destinations. In contrast, bus transportation in South Africa is generally considered safer than other modes of transportation such as trains and minibus taxis. This may mean that consumers will often compromise on areas such as reliability and efficiency as bus transportation will often take very long periods of time to go to and from a destination.

Additionally, many of the buses are worn down and poorly maintained. In addition, fuel costs are very high to maintain for public busing. Access to affordable fuel or alternatives to fossil fuels must be necessary in order for bus transportation in South Africa to be reliable. Typically, fuel for buses often costs 10% to even 40% of total operating costs.

The Procedure of Launching the Electric Buses

In July 2021, Golden Arrow launched two solar panel-powered buses that will be fully functional. Golden Arrow designed the buses to carry passengers like any other fossil fuel-powered bus.

As part of its three-step plan, Golden Arrow installed a small-scale solar power system at their depot to power the bus. The second and third parts of the program involved expanding the solar power system by adding another 2,500 solar panels on another Golden Arrow depot. Next, the uYilo e-mobility program funded the electric bus testing. The trial runs showed that the buses could run for 300 kilometers without recharging. This would potentially help many rural passengers gain access to the public bus transportation system. It ran two buses, one with no passengers and another with sandbags equivalent to the weight of 44 people.

However, the experiment itself was a great success, showing there is much to learn about solar-powered buses. This includes electricity usage under different conditions, charge time between trips, maintenance needs and battery degradation.

Golden Arrow’s History in Cape Town

Golden Arrow transports 250,000 passengers every day. These two electric buses will help transport many lower-income constituents, as the Metro in the local Cape Town area stopped functioning. This will help many people get to and from their jobs and will also be environmentally friendly.

Overall, Golden Arrow’s solar-powered buses program has found a balance between making environmentally friendly transportation options that have positive impacts on the environment while making it affordable for the average everyday worker in Cape Town.

– Matthew Port Louis
Photo: Flickr

lagos-ibadan railwayThe dilapidated state of Nigeria’s roads, train tracks and other infrastructure has kept 40% of Nigerians under the poverty line as of 2019. In February 2021, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari requested the equivalent of $2.6 billion in funding to address this consistent roadblock, dedicating the majority of the funds to completing a new Lagos-Ibadan Railway. Finished in mid-June 2021, the Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Railway will efficiently connect Nigeria’s largest city with its inland communities. The Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Railway will aid Nigeria’s impoverished communities by facilitating job creation and increasing national connectivity.

Wealth and Job Creation

The need to create and maintain the railway infrastructure created many jobs for Nigerians. Over its construction period of three years, when builders faced many obstacles that required innovative solutions, the railway provided employment to more than 20,000 Nigerians. Staffing, conducting and maintaining the quality of the Lagos-Ibadan Railway will create an additional 7,000 jobs.

Furthermore, projections determine that the railway will attract many national and foreign investors, especially in Ibadan. Studies by the International Journal of Business and Management Invention and Journal of Economics and Sustainable Development display the large impact of foreign direct investment (FDI) on poverty reduction in Nigeria.

A streamlined connection to Lagos will help Ibadan grow and become more of a trade hub. The resulting increased FDI will supplement domestic savings and expand local technology and managerial skills for the economic development of low-income areas.

Transportation and Connectivity

The railroad will extend the lifespan of existing roads and means of transport. It will also lessen congestion for product transportation, minimize maintenance costs and ultimately aid local producers in sustaining a comfortable lifestyle. In 2018, three million passengers utilized Nigerian trains as regular transportation. About 42,000 people utilized the Lagos-Ibadan Railway in June 2021 alone.

Between Lagos and Ibadan, the railway connects eight cities and their surrounding areas. Connecting rural areas to Nigeria’s industry hubs will help incorporate rural populations into urban markets.  For example, a direct connection to the Apapa port facilitates the transportation of goods from Nigeria’s rural areas. About 70% of Nigeria’s workforce are farmers. Direct connection to a port will improve farm productivity, increase annual GDP and reduce poverty.

Looking Forward

Expanding the country’s railway network by 157 kilometers and increasing city access for millions of citizens is a step forward for poverty reduction in Nigeria. Thanks to this infrastructure update, Nigerians celebrate tens of thousands of new jobs, increased investment and more efficient transportation. The Lagos-Ibadan Railway excites Nigerians who hope to continue the spread of connectivity across the country.

Julia Fadanelli
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Morocco's EconomyPreviously, a myriad of tourists had visited Morocco to explore its diverse culture, food, landscapes, history and people. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the nation has faced a devastating economic crisis. Without its regular influx of tourists or traveling diaspora, Morocco is in the depths of a recession for the first time since 1995. The government is working to ensure that Morocco’s economy can recover from the pandemic.

5 Ways Morocco’s Economy is Recovering

  1. The Mohammed VI Investment Fund: In November 2020, King Mohammed VI established a $1.6 billion economic plan to revive Morocco’s economy due to the economic crisis that the COVID-19 pandemic brought on. Shortly afterward, the International Finance Corporation, as part of the World Bank Group, officially announced its support for the Moroccan Ministry of Economy and Finance’s efforts to boost the country’s economy.
  2. Moroccan Transportation Companies Decrease Prices: In June 2021, King Mohammed VI announced that all transportation companies must make tickets more affordable for Moroccans living abroad. The announcement targeted airlines such as Royal Air Maroc, which dropped flight ticket prices by more than 50% globally. Within a few days of the announcement, flights were being booked much faster than before. During the first week of discounted airline ticket prices, 195,547 people traveled to Morocco.
  3. Other Discounts for Tourists: Airline discounts are not the only thing Morocco’s economy is relying on to attract travelers. All forms of transportation in Morocco, from car rentals to train and bus tickets, have decreased in price. Additionally, 30% of hotel prices have decreased.
  4. More Visitors: International travel restrictions drastically affected tourism, causing a 78% deficit in the sector’s revenue in the first quarter of 2021. In response, the Moroccan government established a new economic plan that specifically targeted revenue from tourism. Now, tourism is surging more than it ever has since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, 12 million tourists visited Morocco, half of whom were Moroccans living abroad. From June to September 2021, Morocco will see 72% of the visitors it saw in the same period in 2019, or around 3.5 million travelers.
  5. Rapid Tourism Sector Rebound: Morocco’s tourism sector suffered a loss of $7.2 billion in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic hit small businesses and tourism hotspots hard, especially during national lockdowns. However, these businesses are benefiting from the country’s new economic plan. Travel reopenings are also catalyzing Morocco’s economic recovery.

Laudable Economic Growth

Despite the effects of COVID-19 on Morocco’s economy, the World Bank ranked it 53rd out of 190 countries for ease of doing business in 2020, reflecting its laudable economic achievements within merely a decade. With King Mohammed VI’s plan in place, the country’s setbacks hardly seem significant. The restoration of Morocco’s economy is underway and the country’s effervescent tourism sector is back on the rise.

– Nora Zaim-Sassi
Photo: Flickr

The North-South Expressway
Vietnam has experienced incredible economic growth since its reforms in 1986. Over three decades, these new economic policies have resulted in an explosion of economic activity and a slash in the rate of poverty. However, Vietnam’s transportation infrastructure is woefully behind many other developed economies. The government responded to this need by creating a nationwide connectivity project, the North-South Expressway.

The Infrastructure Issue

Vietnam has inadequate transportation networks and requires development and investment. Empirically, Vietnam’s 2020 target goal of $27 billion for public investment, mainly dedicated to transportation infrastructure, shows this. The country’s transportation needs have steadily risen since the economic reforms. Road usage in Vietnam has been on an incline with congested streets and car accidents constituting Vietnam’s hidden epidemic. However, transportation investments have lagged behind. An increase in funding is necessary for the country to reap the benefits of efficient transportation.

The North-South Expressway

The North-South Expressway is the solution to this transportation problem. The $17.9 billion project looks to connect all of Vietnam from Lang Son to Ca Mau. The road system will be an expanse of 1,811 kilometers with a toll collection system and a smart traffic system. Travel to important tourism sites, economic zones and other transportation areas will now be feasible with the new expressway. This high-speed travel throughout diverse geographical regions will revitalize the country’s transportation infrastructure. For the first time in Vietnam’s history, the country will be well connected.

Unfortunately, the central government has run into issues with financing the project. Originally, the government split the project into 11 sub-projects, with five being a public-private partnership (PPP). However, only three of the five received financial backing; the remaining two had no investor bids. The government then changed the two unfunded projects to public projects. However, the government’s ability to finance the project on its own is uncertain. The much-needed outside investments have proven hard to obtain. The project itself is attractive but legal ambiguity within the country causes caution and concern in investors. As such, Vietnam’s government has been spurred into implementing new legislation.

Public-Private Partnership Law

The Public-Private Partnership Law (PPPL) aims to fix the legal barriers preventing the execution of The North-South Expressway. The PPPL will be in effect as of January 2021. The law will clarify the process of investing in Vietnam by creating standard form contracts and government guarantees of project fulfillment. The law will also enforce proper foreign currency payment from foreign investors and the use of a risk-sharing mechanism. Essentially, the PPPL elevates and integrates the previously passed laws, decrees and circulars that regulated PPPs into one authoritative law. It will make private and foreign investment in government-sponsored infrastructure projects simpler, less risky and more appealing.

The Light at the End of the Road

Improving transportation networks will have a profound impact on Vietnam. It will increase economic activity through improved connections between consumers and producers and decrease transportation costs. The World Economic Forum estimates a 5% to 25% economic return on every dollar that goes toward infrastructure, such as transportation. More succinctly, developed roads lubricate the flow of goods and people across regions, which increases economic activity.

Additionally, developing transportation networks directly affects society’s most impoverished members. Areas with little economic opportunity would become connected to vital economic centers. As a result, connectivity to social services, such as health care and education, would increase along with economic and social mobility. The economic rewards are well worth the financial investment into transportation infrastructure. The North-South Expressway — with the help of the PPPL — indicates significant poverty reduction for Vietnam in the near future.

Vincenzo Caporale
Photo: Flickr

Women-Only Ride Service
In South Africa, many stories have emerged from women experiencing sexual assault while being in a taxi. Reports determined that there were more than 53,000 sexual assaults in March 2020, though the number might be far higher according to women’s rights groups. Luckily, Bolt has launched a women-only ride service to provide women safe transit in South Africa.

Women-Only Ride Service

With technology constantly progressing, safer transportation for women has become very vital. As recently as January 2021, Bolt has launched a women-only ride service. This service allows women passengers to request female drivers only; this also prohibits male drivers from viewing this request. This is possible through the registration process for drivers with Bolt; verifying if they are female or male, and their identity, makes it possible that only female drivers can access the Bolt Women Only category.

In November 2020, Bolt’s women-only ride service entered a pilot phase in East London and Rustenburg. Made possible through Bolt’s partnership with national safety platform Namola, an app-integrated SOS emergency button protects drivers and passengers. The functions this button offers enables the passengers and drivers to private armed response teams, private emergency medical services and roadside assistance if they are involved in any medical or security emergency while on a Bolt ride.

Bolt App

Bolt is a transportation app that women can use to request affordable and fast conveyance. Reviews for the app are mostly positive, and the new service is now available in various locations, such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Port Elizabeth, Mthatha, Polokwane, Thohoyandou, Mbombela and Emalahleni.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Bolt had taken into consideration the dwindling economic activity and rising poverty. To benefit those with low income, bolt introduced a new low-cost category called “Bolt Go” for its South African customers. The new affordable service trialed successfully in the Eastern Cape cities of East London and Port Elizabeth. In South Africa, the 35 cities and towns where Bolt is active started utilizing the service.

Increased Safety for Women

The woman-only ride service was a long time coming, but highly necessary. Just like anywhere else, women are in danger of being targets for assault or harassment, including in transit environments. This new service emerged out of a series of complaints and petitions from users who have experienced sexual harassment from male drivers. Both women and e-hailing drivers have the right to feel safe and protected while driving around and working. In sub-Saharan Africa, unsuitable transportation—”transport poverty”—inordinately impacts women and young girls due to abuse and sexual assault.

Less than 5% of female drivers using Bolt are women. In fact, around 64% of women have mentioned “security” as the reason that they are not lining up to be e-hailing drivers. The woman-only ride service will exclusively be available during 6 a.m. and 7 p.m., though the small number of female drivers might impact the waiting time for potential passengers. Even though the lack of female drivers might bring a setback, the woman-only ride service is much more beneficial if it comes out sooner rather than later.

Thomas Williams
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

How Investing in Transportation Can Aid India’s Poor India is home to several incredibly populous cities. It has the second-largest population in the world, and roughly 34% live in urban areas. Furthermore, about 17% of its population lives in the slums surrounding major urban areas. These cities rely on the labor from the working poor living on the outskirts, and for many of the workers commuting into the city, transportation can be a challenge. In fact, many impoverished workers’ only option is to commute on foot.

There is a lack of reliable transportation in India. This causes a variety of problems such as health risks, time consumption and is not viable for many who are disabled.

Commuting to India’s Populous Cities

India’s large cities are filled with clustered streets and congested traffic. Still, about 37% of the urban population commutes by foot every day. For those who cannot afford a car, or another form of transportation, finding work can be a challenge. In this sense, the city is not inclusive to disadvantaged groups as they cannot feasibly get around for work or any other reason. This type of system makes it increasingly difficult for the poor to make their way out of poverty as constantly commuting by foot limits opportunities as well as causes problems.

Additionally, in most areas throughout the cities, there are no clear lanes for those not using motor vehicles. For transportation in India, all modes of travel share lanes which causes great disorder and danger for commuters on foot.

Poverty and Transportation

Roughly one-quarter of India’s urban population lives below the poverty line. These are the people who are in need of new ways to commute around the city. Several Indian cities have tried to implement a metro or rail system to alleviate traffic issues in their main corridors. However, this solution still does not reach those in need because oftentimes the route does not include the more impoverished areas, and further, the rates are too expensive for most to afford.

However, this is not always the case. The Delhi Metro is the country’s largest metro system and has also been the most successful, carrying around 2.8 million people every day. The Indian government has also been working to revamp the bus system, looking to add up to 504km of new lines for the new Rapid Bus Transit System between 2009 and the now. This process has been greatly aided by allowing private companies to have access to these routes in exchange for providing the resources necessary for this huge project. It is estimated that this initiative will increase ridership from 120 million to 150 million per day.

These changes to transportation in India will be crucial in reaching lower-income areas so that they may commute more easily to work. Transporting people from the outskirts of the city into the center gives them better access to sanitation, healthcare, food and work. There is much potential in a project like this to integrate as many people as possible into the flourishing of a city. Currently, those without reliable transportation are excluded from many of the necessities for rising out of poverty. Hopefully, with these new projects, that can change.

Jackson Bramhall
Photo: Flickr