The Okada War in Urban Ghana: A Polemic Issue or Policy Mismatch?
by Martin Oteng-Ababio and Ernest Agyemang
In recent years the government of Ghana and a section of civil society have clashed over whether motorcycle taxis, christened okada, which are fast becoming a major public transport mode, should be encouraged or not. In an apparent submission to public pressure and in pursuance of sustainable urban development, the government eventually enacted landmark legislation banning the use of motorcycles for commercial purposes. Using stakeholders’ perspectives, this paper assesses the synergies and tensions between the respective claims and counterclaims. Among the issues raised against okada are traffic congestion, danger to public safety, and worsening environmental impact. Proponents of okada extol the virtues of maneuverability, compatibility with bad roads, and demand-responsiveness. This study does not discount these claims but rather posits that, fundamentally, substantial allocative and technical inefficiencies have generated large public transit deficits and severe highway congestion, thus creating a market niche for okada. Our study highlights three major outcomes. First, it reaffirms the importance of evidence-based policy making as a solution for sustainable development initiatives. Second, it identifies the human security risks associated with a short-term vision and how reactive regulations can prepare the ground for segregation and fragmented access to the urban landscape. Third, it highlights the role of pressure groups and policy makers in shaping and re-defining urban transportation landscapes in an isolated manner. Rather than taking a systematic approach, such groups and policy makers react with little consideration for their clients: the commuters. The findings corroborate our earlier empirical studies, which revealed okada as an unofficial but thriving mobility option.