Following on from the foundations set earlier in February, 2017, INTALInC partners converged at the University of Cape Coast in Ghana from 22nd – 23rd May, 2017, for a 2-day workshop to deliberate the mobility needs of vulnerable populations in developing countries. The workshop was attended by some of the network’s partners from the University of Leeds (UK), Durham University (UK), Lagos State University (Nigeria), Urban Action Lab – UAL of Makerere University (Uganda) and of course, the host institution, the University of Cape Coast (Ghana). In her opening presentation, Prof. Karen Lucas, the network director, emphasized that the broader goal of the regional workshops being conducted under the INTALInC initiative was to get decision-makers to learn from the experiences of different actors. According to Prof. Lucas, the network more specifically aims to achieve this by:
i. developing an interdisciplinary, collaborative network for the co-production of knowledge between the UK and internationally-based academics, policy makers and NGOs,
“It’s not just about the infrastructure, it’s very much about the people who use this infrastructure…”
– Prof. Karen Lucas
Alongside a couple of ‘live’ fieldwork exercises and several presentations, the workshop provided critical
insights and experiences into the accessibility challenges of vulnerable groups like children, disabled students and the youth in our rapidly changing and dynamic urban world. Perhaps the most pertinent question from an outsider or any observer to the workshop proceedings would have been: why were the discussions focused on young people in the first place? In her opening presentation, Prof. Gina Porter, from Durham University, UK, could not have given a better rejoinder;
“Why young people? They make up almost half of the total populations of countries like Ghana in the global South. Young people are the future!”
It is therefore vital that their mobility needs to access schools, health services and navigate an increasingly complex and challenging urban environment to safely access different opportunities. Without proper understanding of their mobility needs and challenges, children and young people are exposed to all manner of multi-dimensional threats and risks, as explored through different presentations on pedestrian safety, transport security and trafficking, impacts of public transport on the health of young people through air pollution and as a medium for the spread of communicable diseases.
By formulating appropriate policies, that are well-informed by well-documented experiences and needs of young people, from different walks of life through ethically acceptable methods, along with engendering positive behavioural change towards the same, can we ensure they have a secure future.
Of course, a plethora of policies does not necessarily guarantee this. Along with the policies, INTALInC partners reiterated the call for getting different actors from academia, policy, professional practice and others to engage one another to ensure that these policies are implemented. As one workshop participant memorably stated:
‘…road safety without enforcement is entertainment!’
The workshop also provided the platform for identifying critical information gaps in relation to the mobility needs of young people. Key among these is the lack of adequate data and information on the specific transport and mobility needs of young commuters in suburb agglomerations of peripheries of core city zones, inventories of social and economic cost of non-implementation of complete streets policy, use of intermodal transportation services by young suburban commuters and more importantly, the prevailing perceptions of urban road infrastructure planners about the purpose of road infrastructure.
In addition to these, Prof. Porter also highlighted the urgency to present data that is gender-disaggregated to avoid missing out on nuanced essences of the research theme around young people’s mobility. Her colleague, Prof. Karen Lucas called on partners to place as much focus on adaptation of ideas relevant to the African context, rather than importing ideas from the global North and superimposing them on contexts to which they are ill-suited.