Rapid urbanization in Africa has been accompanied by a myriad of problems. At the core of these urban problems is the issue of transport. The arrangement of transport systems in African cities has caused headaches for local authorities. There is an absence of the proper infrastructure to cope with the fast-rising numbers of vehicles and pedestrians.
A number of African cities have now resorted to innovative steps to curb these problems and to create cleaner, conducive urban environments. These include Cape Town, Kigali, Kampala and Nairobi. They have introduced car-free days to deal with the problems that come with the presence of cars in cities. Another African city has decided to take the same route, but with a different, exciting twist. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital, has been at the forefront of car-free days. These have been wildly successful and popular that other Ethiopian cities have followed suit.
Ethiopia's roads are clogged with cars. But the car-free Sundays give a refreshing look to the cities, one that is fulfilling and can serve as an admirable model for other African cities to emulate. On the car-free Sundays, the streets are filled with people taking part in exercise and activity. People participate in fitness classes and football in the streets of the Ethiopian cities. These have become an integral part of Ethiopian urban life and many people are starting to see the immense benefits of swapping cars for a workout.
Air pollution is one of the biggest challenges that vehicles bring to environments. If these initiatives continue with the current zeal they are being afforded, there will be massive positive changes to the environment.
Car-free Sundays are being instrumental in as far as the social and moral fabric of the Ethiopian society is concerned. Family time is now being fostered more, as attested by Beza Tadesse, who is a new mother. "In Addis Ababa especially, there's a lot of traffic. You can feel the air isn't clean and this has an impact on our health. I recently gave birth and according to Ethiopian culture, we eat a lot and gain a lot of weight. We can't get back to shape if we don't exercise."
This speaks volumes of the huge impact that the car-free Sundays are imprinting on the Ethiopian psyche. The promotion of healthy lifestyles is an impressive effort initiated by the government in Ethiopia.
The project was started by the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed. The government decentralized the initiative, letting city authorities conduct the car-free Sundays that are now designated on the last Sunday of every month. The various workout exercises inject colour and creativity in the hustle and bustle of cities.
At first, the program was met with much resistance from the motorist and small business ideas. With many people have warmed up to this and enjoying it, there is abounding optimism that Ethiopian cities will be much cleaner than they are, and that the people will be remarkably healthy.
In circumstances where it is a herculean task to make drastic changes to the transport infrastructure in cities, these simple initiatives go a long way in striving for cleaner environments that are vital to human living.
Header image credit - BBC