Interview with Dr Ousmane Thiam
This article was initially published in Public Transport Trends 2015.
Dr Ousmane Thiam is the Honorary President of UITP and the President of CETUD, the urban transport authority in Dakar (Senegal). For over a decade, he has worked to improve public transport in Dakar and across the continent of Africa, by focusing on professionalisation of the sector and staff training.
Dr Thiam, could you tell us about the major changes that have taken place in public transport in Dakar in recent years? What were the goals and how did you implement them?
Over the last 18 years, Dakar has benefited from support from the World Bank (WB). This has enabled the region to set up a robust organising authority for urban transport (CETUD). One of CETUD’s main priorities is structuring the informal sector with a view to improving its quality and visibility. We do this by funding the renewal of the fleet of vehicles in order to change the way we operate and to draw up agreements with economic interest groupings (EIG) for operators, for lines and for pre-defined stops and regulated fares.
In the last ten years, we have been able to purchase 1,600 new medium-sized vehicles (45 seats), of which 1,200 came from India, funded by the WB and the BRM (Banque Régionale des Marchés), and 400 came from China, with bilateral cooperation funding.
The idea is that operators with whom we contract should pay 20 to 25% of the initial cost of the vehicles and repay the balance over five years. Those few operators who do not repay must forfeit their vehicles, which are then given to other operators from the same EIG. With the repayment rate of the pilot operation reaching 99%, the resources are invested, with the agreement of the WB and the Senegalese State, in a revolving fund which will help funding new investments in future.
What are the results of this shift from the informal sector to the formal sector?
Today the transport sector is better organised. The informal sector accounted for 80% of public transport in 2000. Today it has fallen to 39% and the objective is to structure the whole sector by 2020. When we sign a contract with an operator, we offer him a management consultant and we propose training for the operator, the drivers and conductors. As of today, more than 60% of the staff have undergone training.
How have people reacted to the improvements in the public service?
The annual satisfaction surveys show a major increase in satisfaction (time savings, safety and comfort). However, there is a problem with overloaded vehicles in the rush hours. The users fight over them, to the disadvantage of the old informal buses.
Are minibuses the only transport system in Dakar?
No, we also have a network of buses (175 operating vehicles) and a suburban train. We are now also restructuring the bus sector, with the delivery soon of 475 new standard buses.
What are your plans for the future?
In view of the rapid urbanisation of Dakar, under the ‘Sénégal Emergent’ plan, we will have to set up a high-capacity transport system; this will be a bus rapid transit (BRT) system. The study is now underway and the first line (19 km) is scheduled for 2017. We have yet to decide if this line will be run by a local or international private operator. All being well, we will have two lines by 2020 and five lines by 2025.
We are also looking at the possibility of an Express Regional Train, which would link the central station in Dakar with the new international airport.
How do you see the public transport sector developing in other cities in sub-Saharan Africa?
The Congresses of the UATP (the African Division of the UITP), held in Dakar in 2010 and Johannesburg in 2012 and 2014, highlighted the growing attention now being paid in Africa to urban transport. This is seen in the setting up of organising transport authorities and the call for greater professionalism of stakeholders. Several cities are now operating BRT, notably Lagos, Johannesburg and Cape Town. BRT is a high-capacity form of transport, one that is understood technically and is efficient in terms of cost and maintenance. I reckon there will be a significant development of BRT in Africa over the next few years. So Africa is well positioned to make a major contribution to achieving the UITP’s goal of doubling the share of public transport markets globally by 2025 (PT x 2).