Motorcycle Safety in Africa

Final Report, Selection No. 7193508 World Bank / African Development Bank
Tripodi, A.; Mazzia, E.; Reina Barranco, F; Caporali, E.; Schermers, G.; Craen, S. de

In developing countries, with relatively poorly developed public transport and road infrastructure, motorcycles are a fast, cheap, and efficient transport alternative. However, despite the mobility benefits they offer, motorcycle riders and their passengers have a high risk to be fatally or seriously injured in the event of crashes.

Motorcycles are also widely used in many African countries for personal and public transport, as well as for service delivery. In some African countries, motorised two- and three-wheelers constitute the largest proportion of the motorised vehicle population. Motorcycles’ safety is a significant problem also in Africa. On average, according to the last data published by World Health Organisation, 22.5% of road traffic deaths in 2016 were riders/passengers of two- or three-wheelers (WHO, 2018).

This research study aims at setting comprehensive strategic recommendations to improve motorcycle safety in Africa, that can inform regional member countries on policy advice and technical assistance. The study especially focused on motorcycle safety conditions in Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Rwanda, and Uganda, where the use of motorcycles for daily activities is reputedly high.

Recommendations have been derived following the identification of major causes of motorcycle crashes and injuries, in turn based on an extensive knowledge gathered from various sources:

International literature and good practices on motorcycle safety.

  • Assessment of motorcycle crashes, regulations, risk exposure data, risk indicators in African
  • countries (with more detailed analysis for Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Rwanda, and Uganda).
  • Stakeholders’ consultations aimed at complementing the assessments.

The review of international literature allowed to identify interventions and practices adopted worldwide,
that could be adapted to African countries. Several topics / practices play a role on motorcycle safety,
as indicated in the following:


  • Motorcycle technical aspects and their homologation
  • Motorcycle design (e.g. use of safety cells)
  • Lighting technology
  • Motorcycle airbags
  • Protective frames
  • Braking devices (e.g. ABS)
  • Helmet standards
  • Conspicuity measures (e.g. use of headlights at all time, retroreflective jacket)


  • Training measures to increase level of experience
  • Awareness raising measures (e.g. on helmet use)
  • Age limitations depending on motorcycle engine power
  • Safety riding education activities
  • Prevention of impaired riding
  • Motorcycle education and training programs


  • Exclusive motorcycle lanes
  • Traffic calming interventions
  • Roadside barriers adapted to motorcycles
  • Road surface and road marking limiting skidding
  • Introducing self-explaining and forgiving roads in road design standards


  • Universal helmet law
  • Mandatory rider education programs
  • Motorcycle Safety Strategies and Plans
  • National Road Safety Agenda


  • Motorcycle enforcement strategies
  • Anti-tampering measures
  • Regulations concerning motorcycle and helmet standards, minimum riding age, motorcycle technical inspections, etc.

It is worth mentioning that not all the practices identified at international level can also be used in African countries. Most of them require actions for their adaptation to local conditions, while others (e.g. those highly technological) are not yet suitable to deal with motorcycle safety issues in Africa. A transferability audit has been realised to identify main challenges for adaptation of practices to Africa.

The assessment of motorcycle safety conditions highlighted important contributing factors playing a role on motorcycle crashes and injuries in Africa.

In 2016, about 10 million motorcycles were registered in Africa, representing around 20% of all registered vehicles globally (around 53 million in total). The five African countries with higher percentage of registered motorcycles (Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Togo, and Burkina Faso) are all classified as low-income countries. All of them have a Gross National Income (GNI) per capita lower than 1,000 USD.

In 2016, about 73,400 road traffic deaths were reported by the African countries. On average, the percentage of deaths on motorcycles is about 23%. However, some countries reach much higher percentages (e.g. Togo with 72% of deaths on motorcycles).

Helmet wearing is one of the main issues in Africa. The reported helmet wearing rate ranges from 6% in Mali to 95% in Eritrea. Compared to riders, the helmet wearing rate of passengers is much lower.

The analysis of data collected in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Rwanda and Uganda, and stakeholders’ consultations, allowed to identify other contributing factors, as well as differences among African countries.

For instance, in Cameroon and Uganda, a high number of motorcycles is overloaded (mainly due to high presence of moto-taxi services). In Burkina Faso, motorcycles are mostly used for private purposes, so that they generally carry one or two persons. In Rwanda, even if moto-taxi services are the main transport means, no motorcycle carries more than one passenger.

Main causes of crashes and of injuries, identified based on the assessments performed in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Rwanda and Uganda, refer to:

  • Lack of helmet wearing, due to missing regulations, low awareness of safety risks, low availability and cost of good quality helmets, helmets not adapted to weather conditions, missing enforcement. On the contrary, Rwanda effectively implemented actions to ensure helmet wearing.
  • Missing helmet standards, due to absence of law and regulation, missing implementation of rules from homologation authorities, import of not standardised helmets.
  • Low quality of road infrastructure, due to road design standards missing or not adapted to motorcycle safety conditions, missing awareness about motorcycle safety facilities.
  • Lack of motorcycle quality, due to missing standards for motorcycle roadworthiness, missing laws for mandatory technical controls, lack of spare parts, lack of fleet controls.
  • Lack of rider licensing and experience, due to low willingness to get a training or a license, poverty, missing enforcement, lack of awareness about importance of riding training and education, missing enforcement.
  • Unsafe moto-taxi services, due to unregulated and uncontrolled practices, activities managed informally, without licenses, and being pushed to work for long periods. Rwanda has implemented good practices to regulate these services.
  • Alcohol and drugs, due to low awareness of risks of riding under the influence of alcohol, use of drugs connected to willingness to stay awake for long periods (for moto-taxi services), missing enforcement.
  • Speeding, due to road infrastructures not adapted to motorcycles, low awareness about speeding risks, need to increase trips for work purposes (for moto-taxi services), missing enforcement.
  • Motorcycle overloading, due to need to increase the number of passengers to make the trip profitable (for moto-taxi services), missing enforcement.
  • Non-use of protective equipment, due to lack of regulations, difficulties to find cheap equipment, lack of awareness about benefits of protective equipment.

It is to note that Rwanda has implemented effective solutions to regulate moto-taxi services and to enforce respect of rules. The motorcycle safety situation in Rwanda is still challenging, but practices such as Traffic Police enforcement, awareness raising made by moto-taxi associations, Government support to moto-taxi sector through clear and fair regulations, etc. can be used as reference for other African countries.

To improve motorcycle safety conditions, various interventions can be implemented having a direct impact on the motorcycle crash and injury causes identified.

Developing a strategic framework according to which interventions can be implemented and monitored should facilitate motorcycle safety improvement. The framework should especially deal with policy formulation, development of legal, institutional, and human capacity, development of safety standards, motorcycle safety education and public awareness campaign, implementation of road safety interventions, as well as with strengthening of enforcement.

Regulating the moto-taxi sector is also recommended (especially based on solutions adopted in Rwanda, e.g. referring to use of e-services for registration of moto-taxi associations and riders, fostering of road safety practices, etc.). In several African countries, the presence of moto-taxi is often the main transport alternative, both in cities and in rural areas. Despite their current importance, they are almost completely unregulated and uncontrolled. Creating official moto-taxi associations, defining appropriate regulations, recognising them as professional services are priorities.

Road infrastructure safety plays an important role for motorcycle safety. In this field, main recommendations concern: revising existing road design standards and guidelines, implementing interventions like separate lanes dedicated for motorcycle use, advanced stop lines for motorcycles, and speed calming measures.

Safety standards for motorcycles should be updated or created, taking into consideration reliable verification of vehicles imported and avoiding assembly of motorcycles in unofficial facilities. Implementing mandatory periodic technical inspection of motorcycles is also highly recommended (both in authorized facilities and through roadside tests).

Standards of helmets must be attentively implemented, to avoid import of not verified equipment (potentially leading to unsafe protection). Homologation of helmet adapted to local weather conditions should be prioritized.

Training and licensing are important since they can reduce risky behaviours currently adopted by most of riders. Attention should also be given to the age for riding licenses and to the association of the age to the motorcycle power. Incentives to help promote riders’ training and education should be considered by Governments.

Introducing age limitation for passengers is also considered important, due to high vulnerability of children. Riders should not take persons for a ride unless they reached the age of 12.

Developing integrated road safety education programmes, awareness raising activities, learning practices, code of behaviours, and communicating about motorcycle safety are also highly recommended. Various factors should be dealt with during communication and awareness: helmet wearing, speeding, alcohol and drugs, overloading, etc.

Enforcement can make the difference in saving lives in the short-term. Developing a clear enforcement strategy, which focuses enforcement activities on key motorcycle collision causation factors and introducing a nationally agreed approach to enforcement, should be worked out.

Interventions should be implemented to ensure the following factors are strongly enforced: helmet wearing, compliance with helmet standards, validity of technical inspections and quality of motorcycles, validity of riding licenses, speeding, alcohol and drugs, overloading.

To ensure its effectiveness and acceptability, enforcement should be accompanied by a comprehensive communication strategy, a strong political willingness, as well as adequate resources and funding.

Interventions should also be implemented concerning emergency issues and first aid training. This measure involves medical personnel receiving appropriate training that involves riders’ needs when having had a crash, such as removing a helmet in the correct manner.

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Gepubliceerd door
FRED Engineering / SWOV, Rome / The Hague


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