What is the African Road Safety Charter?

In this article, we look at why the Charter is so significant and how NGOs can use it for advocacy and accountability so that it can become enforceable across Africa.

The African Road Safety Charter was adopted in 2016 by African Union (AU) Member States to provide a framework for road safety policy implementation and accountability in Africa. The Charter’s listed objectives are: 

  • To serve as a policy framework for Road Safety improvement in Africa;
  • To serve as an advocacy tool and instrument for road safety improvement on the continent aimed at facilitating the creation of an enabling environment to drastically reduce road traffic crashes.

The Charter gives provisions (Chapters III, IV and V) to help African countries to develop and implement road safety policies in a way that is tailored to the unique challenges of the region. Its main provisions include:

  • Road safety management: which includes creation of road safety lead agencies; institutional strengthening of road safety lead agencies; development of road safety strategies; capacity to create and master credible road safety data management system; and promoting collaborative efforts at national, regional and continental levels,
  • Safer road and mobility: which includes classifying roads according to the functions they serve; incorporation of non-motorized traffic; adopting and enforcing minimum standards of vehicles to ensure their roadworthiness; issue and enforce road safety legislation, particularly those related to speed control, control of driving while under the influence of alcohol and drugs, wearing seat belts, use of helmets and enhancing visibility and use of mobile telephone while driving; strengthening pre-hospital and post-crash care services in order to provide timely and appropriate care to road traffic-injured patients to minimize their effects and long-term disability.
  • Financing, monitoring and evaluation: which includes prescribing the proportion of financial resources to be allocated for road safety interventions; identifying sustainable sources of funding, particularly internally, for Road Safety.

However, for the Charter to become fully effective, it needs to be ratified by at least 15 AU Member States[1]. So far, 12 countries have ratified the Charter. Senegal was the most recent to ratify in July 2023. Therefore just three more countries are needed to make the Charter enforceable. “Ratifying the Charter will fast track the implementation of strategies that will reduce road crashes on the continent” says Horst Heimstadt, Namibia Road Safety Forum and Africa Chapter Advisory Committee member.

Charters addressing other development issues have demonstrated the potential that the AU Road Safety Charter has. For example, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights has been hugely influential and is cited in a large number of national and subregional legal and policy documents. Our goal is to see the African Road Safety Charter achieve this kind of impact. First it must be ratified.

So, how can NGOs play a part in achieving ratification of the African Road Safety Charter? 

NGOs can start by mapping the key players in their government: who is responsible for ratification (usually the Minister for Transport), who else is involved in the process, and who are allies that could be convinced to advocate alongside you, such as the road safety agency. At the recent Heads of Road Safety Agency Meeting in Stockholm, Sweden, Lotte Brondum, the Alliance’s Executive Director. alongside Nhan Tran, WHO, made a call to national road safety agencies in Africa to push for ratification of the Charter in their country. The road safety agency is an excellent place to start when looking for allies. 

The ratification will normally need to be approved by parliament and parliamentarians therefore also play a key role. In September, the Alliance will hold a dialogue jointly with the African Network of Road Safety Legislators to harness ways that NGOs and parliamentarians can engage meaningfully. The Charter will be among the areas discussed. Read more HERE.

You may find that key decision makers and policy makers are not aware of the Charter. Raising awareness of the Charter and its benefits is one of the ways that NGOs help progress ratification. Linking the Charter to your country’s national development plan on issues related to safe mobility, accountability, economic development etc. is an excellent way of connecting the Charter to other agendas that are relevant to government policy makers.

Read how LASER International successfully advocated for the Charter in Senegal HERE.

1African Union. (2016). African Road Safety Charter. Chapter II, Article 2 pg.4 https://au.int/sites/default/files/treaties/37309-treaty-0052_-_road_safety_charter_e.pdf