Press Release

The UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety arrives in Ethiopia for a two-day visit in support of new mobility initiatives

29 May 2023

UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety, Mr. Jean Todt, has arrived in Ethiopia as part of his visit to East and Southern Africa to advocate for the effective implementation of the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030, which aims to halve the number of victims on the road by 2030. 

In Ethiopia, the Special Envoy will meet with senior Government officials and representatives of the public, private sector and the civil society and visit health and training centres from May 29-31.


The Special Envoy Kenya will also visit Kenya (June 1-5) and Zimbabwe (June 6-8). The purpose of the mission is also to assess progress after the United Nations Road Safety Performance Reviews (RSPR) of Ethiopia (2020) and Zimbabwe (2022).


These reviews, which are strongly supported by the Special Envoy are an initiative of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) to assist governments in identifying the most fundamental road safety priority needs and to offer recommendations to strengthen road safety management capacities.


This visit of the Special Envoy will be also an opportunity to look at the results of UN Road Safety Fund (UNRSF) projects in the region.  The UNRSF-funded project, 'Safer Streets for Road Users in Africa', is improving road safety for pedestrians and cyclists in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Mozambique and Guinea led by UN-HABITAT, UNEP, UNECA and UNICEF. To date, in Ethiopia, bike share trainings were held for transport authorities, and the Mayor of Hawassa requested local authorities to research car-free days and zones. Meanwhile in Kenya, a Minecraft workshop – digital lego for urban design – was conducted, followed by tactical urbanism interventions to test the designs developed by vulnerable road users, and showcased at last year’s Africities Summit in Kisumu.


“The majority of road traffic deaths occur in Africa and the first victims are young people. As  projections say that by 2050, at least one in every three births will be in Africa, accelerated and strategic action by stakeholders and governments is essential," highlights the Special Envoy.


Road crashes affect principally the most vulnerable


Road traffic crashes are the leading cause of youth mortality in Africa. Globally, Africa accounts for about 25% of the number of road crash victims, while the continent has barely 2% of the world's vehicle fleet. Sub-Saharan Africa is the region most affected, with a fatality rate of 27/100,000 inhabitants, three times higher than the European average of 9/100,000. The world average is 18/100,000.


According to the World Bank, the mortality rate in Ethiopia is 28 per 100,000 inhabitants. Car occupants are the most vulnerable road users in the country and accounted for nearly 52% of road deaths in 2018.  Pedestrians constituted the second most vulnerable road user group in the country, with up to 33 percent of fatalities, and with the largest share of road traffic deaths occurring in towns and cities.  Buses and commercial vehicles (trucks) were involved in a disproportionately high number of road traffic deaths, representing nearly 65% of fatal crashes in the country in 2018.


According to the World Bank, the mortality rate in Kenya is 28 per 100,000 inhabitants. Monthly fatalities in the country increased by 26% from January 2015 to January 2020, while injuries increased by 46.5% over the same period. Pedestrians make up the majority of road deaths (37%). The other vulnerable road users are pillion passengers and motorcyclists (boda-boda).


Address the whole system and rethink mobility


Drunk driving, speeding, drowsiness, negligence, non-use of seat belts and helmets, negligence and non-compliance with traffic regulations are the main cause of road crashes in Africa. The ageing of the vehicle fleet and public transport, false licenses, lack of enforcement of penalties and the lack of seriousness of technical inspections are also major causes of road crashes.


The core solutions to address road safety at the country level fall under the safe systems approach, which considers improved management, safer roads, vehicles and road users, as well as better post-crash response. With African cities undergoing rapid population growth, urban transport infrastructure services are essential to improve mobility and enhance access to opportunities. The management of road safety data is also key to better design mobility policies.


Among the solutions to be implemented include the need to strengthen health services for the injured, adherence to the African Road Safety Charter, the United Nations Basic Conventions on Road Safety, and the need to strengthen public awareness campaigns.


It is also necessary to protect the most vulnerable road users, namely pedestrians and cyclists, who are often also the poorest and youngest. Africa has the highest proportion of cyclist and pedestrian fatalities, accounting for 44% of the total number of road deaths. Walking remains the dominant mode of transport in Ethiopia, including Addis Ababa where walking accounts for 54% of all travel. But like many African countries, many streets lack continuous walkways and safe facilities for cycling. As we have just come out of the UN Global Road Safety Week, with the theme - #RethinkMobility, it is time for Africa to seize the opportunity to invest in safe and sustainable mobility solutions for all.


In addition to the human tragedy, road crashes trap countries into a vicious circle of poverty. According to the World Bank, the cost of road crashes represents 8,8% of Ethiopia's annual GDP , 9,1% of Kenya's and 13,3% of Zimbabwe’s.  Another reason to rethink mobility and to invest in road safety.


One recommendation of the RSPR in Ethiopia was for the Government to prioritize efforts to address capacity deficiencies of the institutions involved in road safety in the country, including greater sustainable financing for road safety. It also recommended strengthening road traffic legislation and other related regulations, such as the driving licensing directives. The establishment of a crash data management system was also targeted as critical to introducing evidence-based interventions in the country.


New mobility initiatives in Ethiopia


The government of Ethiopia has demonstrated commitment to adopting a more equitable approach that addresses the mobility needs of all citizens. In June 2020, the Ministry of Transport, with the support of UNEP, UN Habitat, UNRSF and ITDP, launched the Non-Motorized Transport Strategy 2020-2029, a national policy designed to promote walking and cycling as a key mode of transport. Ethiopian communities, with government support, have also started an Open Streets Movement called Menged Le Sew, meaning, “Streets for the People.”  This is a monthly initiative that aims to tackle some of the consequences of rapid urbanization by focusing on the importance of healthy active living, sustainable mobility, social cohesion and safe streets. Car-free days play an important role in shifting the mindsets of citizens and policy makers.


The obsolescence of the vehicle fleet requires special attention.


Used cars constitute over 85% of the vehicle fleet in Ethiopia, many of which are not equipped with basic safety features.  According to Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and the central vehicle registry (CVR), between 2011 and 2019 the number of imported second-hand public and private vehicles increased from 800,000 to 1,500,000.        


The United Nations Road Safety Fund is investing in a project for importing safer and environmentally friendly vehicles in Africa.  In partnership with government ministries, the private sector, and civil society, the initiative supports the regulation of the export and import of used vehicles in Africa, particularly vehicle regulations and technical inspections or anti-lock braking systems. In 2021, the project contributed to the European Commission's proposal, adopted in 2023, to improve regulations on waste shipments.




Media Contact:

Secretariat of the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Road Safety:

Priti Gautam

Stephanie Schumacher


Notes to Editors:


The United Nations has invested significantly in tackling the problem of road safety globally. Following the “Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020”, the UN General Assembly in August 2020 adopted a resolution on “Improving Road Safety”, that reconfirmed its commitment to halving the number of global traffic deaths and injuries and to providing access to safe, affordable, accessible, and sustainable transport systems for all by 2030. In July 2022, the road safety community met in New York City for the first ever High-Level Meeting on Improving Global Road Safety at the United Nations General Assembly, unanimously adopting a text titled: “Political declaration of the high-level meeting on improving global road safety”.


To galvanize intersectoral actions and raise the visibility of road safety, the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, appointed in 2015 Jean Todt as his Special Envoy for Road Safety. He was reconfirmed in this role by the new UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, in 2017 and in 2021. In 2018, together with 14 UN organizations, the Special Envoy launched the UN Road Safety Fund (UNRSF). In his role as UN Special Envoy, Mr. Todt contributes, among other things, to mobilize sustained political commitment to make road safety a priority; to advocate and raise awareness of UN legal instruments on road safety; to share established good practices in this area; to striving to generate adequate funding through strategic partnerships between the public, private and non-governmental sectors.


Special Envoy brochure and Twitter account.


UNECE acts as the secretariat for the Special Envoy for Road Safety. UNECE is the custodian of the United Nations road safety legal instruments applicable worldwide, such as the Convention on Road Traffic, the Convention on Road Signs and Signals, and the 1958, 1997 and 1998 Vehicle Regulations Agreements.  UNECE services the ECOSOC Committee of Experts on Transport of Dangerous Goods, as well as the only permanent United Nations intergovernmental forum on road safety (Working Party on Road Traffic Safety) and the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations, both in the framework of the Inland Transport Committee, which is the only permanent UN forum specialized in inland modes of transport.


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