Driving progress: Motorcycle taxis in Liberia

We are driving development

A track bridge in Liberia next to an old footpath bridge

The Challenge

In Africa, motorcycle taxis provide access to markets, education and health facilities for millions of rural dwellers. But they can only do so effectively where there are roads. In Liberia, a quarter of the population is living in villages connected to the national road network by no more than a footpath. Upgrading these footpaths to a motorcycle accessible track is easy and much cheaper than feeder road rehabilitation, let alone construction. But donors and governments are reluctant to do this without hard data on the socio-economic impact of these upgraded footpaths. Dr Krijn Peters’ study provided this much sought-after data.

The Method

Dr Peters had conducted extensive field work during and immediately after the armed conflicts in Sierra Leone and Liberia, on the reintegration process of ex-combatants and rural post-war reconstruction. He observed that many of the newly unemployed started to take up motorcycle taxi riding. This sector - spontaneously emerging after the end of the wars – provided tens of thousands of new jobs.

These observations were presented to GIZ/GTZ - the German equivalent of the Department of International Development - and resulted in a track construction project.

Simultaneously, Dr Peters received funding from the ESRC/DFID to assess socio-economic impact of this. Base-line data from two village clusters and a control village cluster were gathered in 2016, prior to track upgrading. End-line surveys were conducted in 2018, a year after the upgrading.

The Impact

The project directly affected approximately 2500 people in 23 villages by:

  • helping farmers to start producing for (local) markets, by halving travel times and increasing amounts that could be transported
  • providing employment opportunities for vulnerable youth
  • helping women and children, by reducing head-loading by up to 80% and by enabling petty trading in the villages due to improved  access to urban markets
  • providing faster and more convenient access to health facilities
  • improving school attendance rates as pupils did not have to spend time carrying loads to the roadside/market

Subsequently, the ’Footpath to Track’ upgrading concept has now become part of Liberia’s draft rural road infrastructure plan.

Text reads Swansea University Research Themes