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Destination: resilient and sustainable transport for all

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Teenager girl in jeans with yellow backpack and bike standing on metro station, waiting for train. Teenager girl in jeans with yellow backpack and bike standing on metro station, waiting for train.

It is 2024 and still one billion people live more than two kilometers away from an all-weather road, one in six women worldwide don't job search out of fear of harassment on transit, and road crashes claim over 1 million lives every year, a whopping 92 percent of which are in developing countries. It is unbelievable that despite all our human advances, the world faces such stark gaps in transport access. 

What will it take to overcome these barriers? Primarily two things: robust partnerships and lots of financing.  

Roughly $2 to $3 trillion is needed every year for transport investments through 2050, according to estimates by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Part of these expenses involve maintaining transport systems that already exist, as natural hazards cause an average of $15 billion a year in direct damage to global transport infrastructure. Another part goes into building new systems, which often come with hefty price tags. The Quito Metro, which opened to transformative success this year, cost over $2 billion. And still more must be directed toward scaling new technologies that will help make the sector less polluting and more resilient. The World Bank maintains a transport portfolio of $40 billion, which is significant but hardly enough to cover the world’s needs.  Public and multilateral development bank (MDB) funds simply cannot meet the current demand, nor cover the overwhelming costs of a climate transition in the sector. If we are to deliver a future with inclusive, safe, resilient, and green transport, then partnering with the private sector is a must. 

Private sector commitments to infrastructure projects have been recovering since hitting a low during the pandemic, and the transport sector has been leading the way. In 2022, transport projects received $66.2 billion in private sector commitments across 85 projects. This represents over 70 percent of the total private sector commitments in low- and middle-income countries for that year.  

The Dakar Bus Rapid Transit system (BRT) in Senegal’s capital is one example of how public, MDB, and private financing can come together to support these goals. The BRT is the first all-electric bus system on the African continent and promises a safe, comfortable, and fast ride for 320,000 daily commuters on their way to 170,000 jobs in the city. Shifting traffic from cars to electric buses also leads to emissions reductions equivalent to getting 260,000 cars off the road. Implementing this system “took a village,” as the saying goes, with support from the World Bank, International Finance Corporation (IFC), Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), the European Investment Bank, the government, and the private sector. A guarantee issued by MIGA enabled the procurement of an all-electric BRT fleet and IFC further advised on the establishment of a public-private partnership. This successful project shows what’s possible with a One World Bank Group approach. 

More such efforts are needed to ensure that everyone has access to transport services and to create a future where transport is a smaller contributor to climate change. But even with transport playing a leading role in private capital mobilization, the levels of investment are still coming up short. Solving this financing question is crucial to building a future with sustainable transport, which is why we are focusing on mobilizing finance for climate action at the upcoming event Transforming Transportation 2024. 

For our part, the World Bank Group is ramping up efforts to mobilize more financing to solve the world’s biggest problems. The World Bank’s Evolution Roadmap calls for us to strategically use our financing power, especially in ways that leverage private sector partnerships. An overhaul to the World Bank Group’s guarantees business sets the aim of tripling annual guarantee issuances to $20 billion by 2030. We are advocating for a significant replenishment of the World Bank's International Development Association, which provides grants and credits to the world’s poorest countries. And we delivered a record $38.6 billion in climate finance in fiscal year 2023 to support efforts to end poverty on a livable planet.   

While these steps are important, to truly transform the future of transportation we need more partners to come on board and more resources. Transforming Transportation 2024 will explore how we can do this and more. Join us for the discussions on March 19 and 20 by attending sessions, watching the event live, or sharing your views in the comments or on social media with #TTDC24. It’s only by coming together that we can determine how best to mobilize resources for greener, safer, resilient transport for all. 


Guangzhe Chen

Vice President for Infrastructure, The World Bank

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