African cities take part in Car free days with Rwanda and Ethiopia taking the lead. The monthly or bi-monthly event is promoted by local NGOs and governments to promote a healthy lifestyle and fight air pollution.
Car-free days have been successfully implemented in cities across both Rwanda and Ethiopia. The initiative's aim is to ease traffic congestion, promote green transport, reduce carbon emission and encourage people to exercise. The city's main roads are closed temporarily for residents to walk, jog or ride bicycles to make their way around.
According to the initiative's explanation, September 22nd is marked globally as the World Car-Free Day to encourage motorists to give up cars for a day and for cities to realize how much pollution affects lives. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution alone caused approx. 4.2 million deaths in 2016.
Car Free Day therefore attempts take the strain off the planet for a day by encouraging people to be less dependent on their cars and try alternatives. Countries have however taken on the challenge to make it a more regular occurrence.
Rwanda which is one of these countries is more of a veteran in the initiative as it launched Car-Free Day in 2016 in Kigali and has since made it a bi-monthly event. Even the country's head of state President Paul Kagame has joined hundreds of Kigali residents to exercise.
Chantal Rwakazina, Kigali city Mayor told the New Times last year that, "When it was starting, the people attending were very few but now the number is growing; and this is a good indicator. We now hold the car-free day twice a month because people asked for it. And we are thinking of doing a quick survey with the participants to see if they want to have it more frequently."
Following closely second is Ethiopia which this month hosted its third Car- Free Day. February 3, 2019, saw all sorts of enthusiasts including footballers, runners, skateboarders and agile Ethiopians storm the empty streets to take advantage of the traffic free roads.
Their previous Car-Free Day was also equally filled with joviality and mass enthusiasm
Unfortunately, some African countries have been unable to replicate the amazing fete. Kenya for example attempted to implement a car-free day in the Central Business District of its capital in February but suspended the programme "for more consultation".
For the sake of the environment and all-round wellness the hope is other countries will soon follow suit in implementing the initiative as a regular occurrence.