Original Research - Special Collection: Impact of COVID-19 on the transport and logistics management

Revealed and future travel impacts of COVID-19 in sub-Saharan Africa: Results of big data analysis and a Delphi panel survey

Roger Behrens, Alexandra Newlands
Journal of Transport and Supply Chain Management | Vol 16 | a758 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jtscm.v16i0.758 | © 2022 Roger Behrens, Alexandra Newlands | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 March 2022 | Published: 30 June 2022

About the author(s)

Roger Behrens, Department of Civil Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Alexandra Newlands, Department of Civil Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa

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Background: After coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) was declared a pandemic, movement restrictions were implemented across sub-Saharan Africa. There has been much speculation on what the long-term impacts on urban transport might be.

Objectives: The aim of this paper is to identify the revealed and future travel impacts of the pandemic.

Method: To pursue this aim, evidence was compiled from two sources: secondary big data; and a (n = 15) two-wave Delphi panel survey of experts in the region.

Results: It is predicted that longer-term impacts will take the form of: reduced travel by, and accessibility for, low-income households residing in peripheral locations because of decreased welfare; reduced transport service availability; operator reduction (particularly amongst unsubsidised formal operators); increased remote activity participation for a minority of better resourced households with white-collar workers; and disrupted trip distributions as the mix of city-centre land use changes in response to business attrition in economic recession rather than to disrupted bid rents.

Conclusion: The major impact of the pandemic is likely to be on welfare, rather than on trip substitution. There is a need, therefore, to focus policy on the mitigation of these impacts and, more particularly, on ways of measuring changes in transport disadvantage and exclusion so that reliable data are available to inform mitigation strategies. The mitigation strategies considered should include investment in affordable ‘digital connectivity’ as a means of complementing accessibility from physical proximity and mobility. The pandemic also highlights the need to develop more robust transport planning practices to deal with uncertainty.


COVID-19; lockdown restrictions; sub-Saharan Africa; Delphi panel survey; travel patterns; passenger transport operations; livelihoods and exclusion


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