Transport is a crucial driver of economic and social development, bringing opportunities for the poor and enabling economies to be more competitive. Transport infrastructure connects people to jobs, education, and health services; it enables the supply of goods and services around the world; and allows people to interact and generate the knowledge and solutions that foster long-term growth. Rural roads, for example, can help prevent maternal deaths through timely access to childbirth-related care, boost girls’ enrolment in school, and increase and diversify farmers’ income by connecting them to markets.

The sector is crucial to reducing poverty, boosting prosperity and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, as transport is at the heart of critical development challenges:

  • Climate change: Transport accounts for about 60% of global oil consumption, 27% of all energy use, and 23% of the world’s CO2 emissions. With motorization rates on the rise, that share is expected to grow dramatically.
  • Rapid urbanization and motorization: Cities are expected to hold 5.2 billion residents by 2050. Over the next 20 years, more cars may be built than in the auto industry’s 110-year history.
  • Accessibility and affordability: An estimated one billion people in low-income countries still lack access to an all-weather road. In many cities, time lost to congestion erodes prosperity. High mobility costs cut the disposable income of the poor who often lack reliable and affordable public transportation.
  • Road safety: More than 1.2 million people are killed and up to 50 million are injured on the world’s roads every year. Low and middle-income countries account for 90% of the deaths although they own just half the world’s motor vehicles.
  • Air pollution: urban air pollution, largely linked to transport, also kills an estimated 800,000 people each year.

As the developing world rapidly urbanizes, there is an opportunity to build safer, cleaner and more efficient and accessible transport systems that reduce congestion and pollution, facilitate access to jobs and lower transport energy consumption. In emerging mid-size cities, where most of the new urban dwellers will live, city planners have an opportunity to design sustainable and inclusive transport systems from the start, leapfrogging more polluting and costly modes. In older or larger cities, technology and data management is helping better map travel patterns and users’ needs, engaging citizens and improving the quality and efficiency of transport solutions.

Last Updated: Sep 23, 2016

The World Bank aims to facilitate the movement of people and goods in developing countries by developing mobility solutions that provide greater access, efficiency and safety, all in a climate-friendly way. To turn this vision into reality, the transport sector business plan for the next three years (2017-2020) focuses on four priority goals:

  • Improve the access of all to economic and social opportunities through greater mobility
  • Increase the efficiency of mobility solutions—to support the achievement of the broader Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Improve the safety of mobility—to support the achievement of the SDG target of halving the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents.
  • Respond to the climate imperative—as set in the Paris climate agreement—by reducing the carbon footprint of the sector (mitigation) and enhancing climate resilience (adaptation).

World Bank transport commitments (IBRD/IDA) at the end of fiscal year 2016 (FY16) amounted to $5.7 billion. Overall, in FY16, there were 202 active Bank projects with total net commitments of $42.6 billion, representing 20.3% of the Bank’s total lending portfolio.

In FY16, IFC committed $558 million in transportation and logistics, and mobilized another $643 million from third-party investors.

Rural and inter-urban roads remain the largest sub-sector with 64% of lending in FY16 ($3.65 billion). However, the transport sector has rebalanced its portfolio with more operations in urban transport, road safety, aviation, ports, and railways, including projects that aim to improve trade competitiveness. Urban transport is a growing business for the Bank, increasing its financing share from 10% ($893 million) in FY11 to 21% ($1.2 billion) in FY16.

To achieve greater impact and results, the World Bank Group collaborates with multiple partners to tackle global challenges.

The World Bank-led Global Road Safety Facility, for example, is working with seven other Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) to harmonize road safety practices in client countries. The MDBs are committed to helping achieve the goals of the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011–2020) which aims to save five million lives and avoid 50 million serious injuries by 2020.

The World Bank’s Africa region also hosts the Africa Transport Policy Program (SSATP) a partnership of 40 countries across all Africa (North and sub-Saharan), 8 regional economic communities, African institutions, the private sector and other development partners. Recent achievements include a framework for improving railway sector performance in Africa; guidelines for mainstreaming road safety in regional trade corridors; and transport governance indicators for sub-Saharan Africa.

Last Updated: Sep 23, 2016

In India, the Mumbai Urban Transport Project took on the challenge of modernizing transport in an ever growing city. It increased the capacity of roads, buses and trains to keep up with urban migration. Modern traffic management systems were introduced to reduce congestion on Mumbai’s choked roads. The project also provided over 19,000 families and shop owners access to permanent housing or commercial space and basic urban services.

In Senegal, the Dakar Diamniadio Toll Highway, inaugurated in August 2013, has already provided significant benefits to the Dakar metropolitan area, the country's economic heart. Travel times between downtown Dakar and Diamniadio were slashed from about 90 to 30 minutes, reducing the cost of congestion. The first toll road of its kind in Africa (outside South Africa), the project mobilized financing from IDA, IFC, AfDB and the French Agency for Development as well as the private sector in a public-private partnership that shows potential for replication elsewhere in the region. IDA took the lead on social issues to mitigate the impacts of resettling 4,500 households and 1,200 business units, and to rehabilitate the neighborhood crossed by the toll road, with a focus on flood protection.

The Pacific Aviation Investment Program (PAIP) is a series of projects designed to improve critical aviation infrastructure and strengthen regulatory compliance of international air transport in participating Pacific Island Countries: Kiribati, Tonga, Tuvalu, Samoa, and Vanuatu. Major elements of the $204 million program include the upgrading of and maintenance of critical airport infrastructure, including runway and apron rehabilitations, improvements to airport terminals, aeronautical equipment (navigation aids, runway lighting), fire and rescue equipment, as well as technical assistance with strengthening of policy and regulatory capacity through master planning, reviewing air services agreements and developing aviation sector strategies.

The ongoing rural road infrastructure project in Nicaragua is providing improved all-weather access to markets and services for the rural population. Between 2012 and 2016, the share of rural population with access to an all-weather road increased from 945,831 to 1,006,157 and travel time on the improved roads has been cut in half. To date, 135 km of rural roads has been paved with adoquines (cobblestones) applying the community participatory approach in road construction and maintenance, generating over 3,400 short-term employment opportunities, of which 34% were taken up by women. Additional economic benefits and travel time savings are expected after the completion of the Bluefield - San Francisco section. This second phase will provide an all-season road connection between the Atlantic coast and the country’s hinterland, which currently does not exist.

In the Kyrgyz Republic, a road rehabilitation project has helped transform lives and create new economic opportunities for rural communities along the Osh-Batken-Isfana corridor. In many cases, journey times have decreased by almost 50%, dramatically improving access to jobs, healthcare, and services. The project brought significant benefits to the farming sector, which forms the backbone of the local economy: better road connections increased the availability and reduced the price of key agricultural inputs like seeds and fertilizers, while allowing farmers to sell their products in new, more distant markets. Now that the road has been fully upgraded, residents also enjoy safer travel conditions, as well as a drastic reduction in dust pollution.

Last Updated: Sep 23, 2016

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