25 July 2023

Support for the public transport company in Luanda (Angola)

In May 2022, the AFD, CODATU and the Angolan Ministry of Transport (MinTrans) signed a cooperation agreement to support the MinTrans in developing an efficient, integrated, and sustainable urban mobility system for the country’s capital city Luanda, as well as other secondary Angolan cities. The cooperation agreement provides the MinTrans with a Fund for Technical Expertise and Experience Transfers (FEXTE) of €1 million over a three-year period during which, capacity-building activities for the MinTrans and other Angolan actors in the transport sector are set up, experience-sharing is promoted and developed between French and African cities, diagnoses and studies are carried out, and other forms of support are provided.

Luanda’s demographic boom over the last fifty years has led to a significant increase in the number of motorized vehicles in the metropolitan area, a deterioration in the road network, high levels of pollution and, above all, the absence of a high-capacity public transport system capable of meeting the demand for transport[1] . According to a study by TUT-POL (Harvard University)[2] , demand for transport in the city has reached 2.8 million journeys per day, and the public transport services available are struggling to meet this demand[3] .

Aware of the shortcomings of the urban mobility system that disrupt the daily lives of the 9 million inhabitants of the capital’s metropolitan area, the Ministry of Transport, having recognized the French expertise in the field of urban transport, specifically asked within the frame of this technical cooperation, that large efforts be devoted to the improvement of the performance of Luanda’s public transport company, TCUL (Transporte Colectivo Urbano de Luanda).

Despite the privileged support that TCUL already receives from the Angolan central government, in particular for the acquisition of a fleet at below-the-market-prices, and for subsidies on certain operating costs[4], the reality remains that the company’s financial structure is unbalanced, and the inhabitants of the capital suffer daily from the lack of availability of public transport services. Many of the handicaps faced by the TCUL can be attributed to non-neglectable external structural factors hindering the smooth running of the company’s operations: the state of the roads limits the extent of TCUL’s operating network, which is confined to the main routes; the operator also suffers from the absence of a metropolitan approach to transport planning and the lack of institutional coordination mechanisms, particularly between the Ministry of Transport and the Ministries of Urban Planning and Infrastructure.

Following TCUL’s first diagnostic mission in November 2022, and in view of the identification of the public company’s restructuring project as a priority area of the technical cooperation agreement by the Ministry of Transport, CODATU provided a tailored support to the company, administering a consultant from ADE Transports to accompany TCUL in the improvement its general management scheme. The technical support began in January 2023 and focuses on implementing a number of “quick wins” in various departments of the company. By acting on TCUL’s internal resources, this method focuses on acquiring clear and rapidly tangible results, obtainable without many costs. TCUL’s administrative board and the heads of the various departments meet every 2 weeks with the consultant to make progress on the thirty or so quick wins identified during the diagnostic phase. This multi-disciplinary approach aims to improve key performance indicators: monitoring and control of budget operations to improve economic and financial health; management and traceability of staff and inventory; improvement of work procedures in the various areas, etc. The consultant also assists with the redefinition and diffusion of routes and timetables, and other information to improve the experience of network users. These meetings with the consultant also enable the TCUL teams to improve communication between the various departments and gain a better understanding of the issues facing each of them.

Technical support also involves adjusting human resources in terms of quantity (staff numbers), quality (skills) and organization. Training plans are put together, focusing on preventive driving (because of the high accident rate), vehicle maintenance, and the implementation of integrated ticketing, amongst other subjects.

The introduction of an integrated ticketing system is one of the Ministry of Transport’s flagship projects, which it is developing through the ENBI (Empresa Nacional de Bilhetica Integrada). CODATU is supporting the TCUL staff as they prepare for the arrival of this new technology. Centralized management and the transition to a smart mobility scheme could considerably improve the control, transparency, efficiency and speed of operations. However, the introduction of an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) system, which represents a real break with the current practices of operators and users, can also disrupt the existing relations and interactions between the various players in the system. The consultant thus follows and supports the implementation of this complex innovation process.

Finally, the issue of vehicle maintenance was identified as a priority for this technical assistance to TCUL. This area was subject to a specific diagnosis and support, with a vehicle maintenance specialist mobilized to contribute to this domain. In his diagnosis, the specialist noted that TCUL’s fleet is fairly recent, yet the company has a high vehicle immobilization rate, and the lifespan of TCUL’s buses is much lower than it should be. The reason for this is that the buses are not operated on a long-term basis: the history of public transport in Luanda is marked by regular fluctuations in the number of buses depending on the economic situation. During economic downturns, when there are no buses on offer, only candongueiros (minibuses) and motorbike taxis provide the transport service. In periods of economic growth, new bus services are developed, to the detriment of the previous ones. The initial investments are quickly degraded by normal wear-and-tear and poor maintenance.

During his last visit in Luanda, the consultant met with the eight other (private) operators present in the capital and compared their operations and performances with those of TCUL’s. This enabled the consultant to identify some of the“best practices” of these private operators, from which TCUL could draw inspiration, and also allowed to establish a better contact between the different operators, who often face the same obstacles. Similarly, CODATU is sharing the management experience of other African bus companies to serve as comparative cases and promote South-South exchanges on the continent, where the contexts are often similar from one city to another.

CODATU’s technical assistance to TCUL is now entering its phase of ‘monitoring and improving’ of the results achieved during the previous period. This new phase focuses on the role of department heads, who must master the various processes to ensure that the lessons learned are sustained beyond the support provided by the consultants.

[1] The demographic explosion is one of the causes, but not the only one. The lack of infrastructure and the deterioration of roads are also consequences of the 30-year armed conflict in Angola.

[2] Luanda, Angola_Casenote_10.31.19 (harvard.edu)

[3]This offer is made up of TCUL, eight other private operators, as well as informal modes of transport provided mainly by candongueiros and mototaxis.

[4] https://valoreconomico.co.ao/artigo/governo-pagou-49-7-milhoes-de-dolares-em-subvencoes-a-3-empresas-publicas