I came across a statistic online stating that Ethiopia is one of the countries in the world with the lowest, if not THE lowest, number of cars with regards to population size. The statistics is that there were two cars per one thousand inhabitants in 2014. The total car count was estimated at 150,000 of which 90,000, i.e. 60 percent, were passenger cars and the remaining 60,000 were commercial vehicles. The average accrual rate has been two percent a year. This really had me thinking whether all 150,000 cars are driven in Addis Ababa, creating the ridiculous traffic that happens at expected and unexpected hours of the day.
I was really surprised by the number of cars. We have 150,000 cars in Ethiopia…only? May be it has come up to 200,000 in 2017, but why does it feel like we have over one million in Addis alone! The traffic has been so dense that I really wonder about the accuracy of the data. Or is it that we do not have enough roads? A friend visiting from Asia once told me that he believes that the traffic is caused by bad driving and not necessarily the lack of roads. And to be honest, that was an eye opening observation. We drive inefficiently, we drive as a individuals rather than as a community. If a car wants to stop in the middle of the road to “triple park”, they the driver will do so blocking all traffic without feeling an ounce of guilt. It is such an interesting practice for a country that prides itself on its community centered culture.
The driving situation is getting worse in Addis Ababa, it particularly worsens during festive seasons. I was very happy to see traffic police checking alcohol levels of drivers during the Christmas season. This is a time where a lot of accidents happen as per a radio program that I was listening too last week. Most of these accidents happen during holidays, making me not want to leave my home or drive on the streets around those times.
I remember being in Johannesburg, Nairobi and Lagos and people telling me that roads are busiest during the first week of the month and emptiest the last week. This is because they receive their pay checks at the end the month, which provides them with money for gas for the beginning of the following month. And as the month comes to an end, the money in the account dwindles and there is not much money for gas, making people opt for public transportation. I wonder if this happens in Addis, whether payday affects the number of cars that end up on the street.
I received a parking ticket two weeks ago and paying it was a real struggle. As it turns out Lehulu, which is a product of the public private partnership established between the ministry of communications and technology and Kifiya financial technology, is nearing termination if not terminated already. I have had the great fortune of going to pay for traffic tickets at Lehulu a few times, in 2016 and early 2017 and more often than not the thing I hear at the door is “system yelem”. It was the case the past week, when I had to pay for my ticket and the guard at the door informed me that “system yelem” and that it has been 6 days since it had “gone”.
I had to go and pay at one of the offices of the Ministry of Transport to pay for it, which took a very long time, 2 days, and was no fun. It certainly made me appreciate the convenience of Lehulu, but it also made me wonder why this ever so illusive system keeps going away. Who is responsible for the system? Although the process of paying for the ticket at the Ministry of Transport was difficult, it is important that there be some sort of townhall on whether the venture with Kifiya should be extended. If part of the goal of creating the PPP is to make it easier for the customers, than customer feedback should be one of the grounds that the venture should be evaluated on.