Mapping travel time to assess accessibility in West Africa: The role of borders, checkpoints and road conditions

The crucial importance of accessibility has renewed international efforts to map travel time at the world level and assess how unequal access to cities affect livelihoods, education and health. Thus far, studies that map patterns of accessibility globally have focussed on large cities, which are particularly rare in West Africa, where 97% of urban areas have fewer than 300,000 inhabitants. These studies also use global datasets that rarely account for the physical and institutional obstacles that can significantly reduce mobility in West Africa. The authors paper expands these global efforts by quantifying travel time required to reach the nearest city in West Africa, defined as a continuously built-up area of >10,000 inhabitants in 2015. The originality of their work is to operationalise two regional features that, in addition to border delays, can potentially reduce accessibility in West Africa: roadside checkpoints, and road conditions. They first want to estimate what the potential population basins of border cities would be if border delays and checkpoints were removed. They then ask to what extent actual road conditions impact accessibility in border regions.To answer these questions, the authors develop a model that measures the population that can theoretically be reached in under four hours by road from any West African city and apply it to all 245 cities located <20 km from a land border. Because road networks in the region promote national cohesion rather than regional integration, these border cities offer a unique perspective on the current challenges of regional integration in West Africa. Their analysis provides a first estimate of the impact of border delays, checkpoints and the state of deterioration of roads on the accessibility of West Africa. It shows that the accessibility of border cities could increase by 14% if there was no waiting at the borders in West Africa and by up to one-third in some regions. The authors' analysis also shows that removing roadside checkpoints would increase accessibility of border cities by 12% on average regionally and by more than half for some centres located on the Gulf of Guinea. Assessing how mobility is constrained by road obstacles in West Africa should contribute to highlight the current hurdle of corrupt practices and informal arrangements negotiated between state employees and private-sector actors along regional transport corridors.


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  • Accession Number: 01725711
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Dec 20 2019 4:23PM