5 Dec 2017

Les Motos du Faso

Marty writes*

“Les Motos du Faso” or the motorcycles of Burkina Faso are as much of a staple as bicycles are in the Netherlands. Throughout my life I have spent many holidays in Ouagadougou and every year I go back it seems like two-wheel traffic increases exponentially. Locally, all two wheelers with engines are simply referred to as “motos” and are a way of life. I have learned that you cannot go anywhere in Ouaga without running into swarms of “motos” criss-crossing through traffic and revving their engines at every stop light. This video shows the typical intersection in Ouaga, 30 seconds into the video you see what is habitual at every traffic light in the city. This post will discuss what factors have to be taken into account when evaluating the environmental cost of the widespread use of “motos” in Ouagadougou.

According to an article published on TRT (Turkey Radio and Television) there is approximately one “moto” for every two people in the capital city, that is 760,000 “motos." When analysing the cost of widespread “moto” this number would serve as our starting point in identifying their indirect cost to the environment, and those living in it. The average distance travelled per day along with an average for CO2 emissions per kilometer would have to be calculated to figure out total CO2 emissions. However, then a cost has to be assigned to CO2 emissions. A major question arises at this point, is the cost of CO2 emissions the same everywhere or are certain areas affected more? To elaborate on this, can we calculate the cost of CO2 emissions for only Ouagadougou or would a greater area have to be involved, and if so how would this be included in a cost-benefit analysis?

Additionally there are various externalities which occur as a result of high motorcycle use. The cost of these externalities are perhaps harder to measure than the direct environmental impact of motorcycles. A main example of this is waste produced by motorcycle mechanics who are dotted on the sides of roads throughout the city. These usually resemble a small shack surrounded by a few motorcycles and one or more mechanics. As most of these garages are informal there is no legitimate waste management system, as such many of them dispose of “motor” oil on dirt roads (sometimes to combat dust), or in open sewage. A practice that potentially has serious repercussions for the groundwater supply.

Bottom Line: The widespread use of “motos” in Ouagadougou has serious environmental consequences, some of which are easily measured. However, many of externalities of their use have hidden costs nearly impossible to measure.
* Please help my environmental economics students by commenting on unclear analysis, other perspectives, data sources, etc. (Or you can just say something nice :)