FIA President Jean Todt visits Africa to promote road safety

Jean Todt, the President of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, this month focused his attention on road safety in Africa, one of the continents most affected by unsafe roads.

Africa holds the highest road traffic mortality rate in the world and almost one quarter of a million people die annually on the roads of sub-Saharan Africa. Todt used visits to Senegal, Gabon and Benin to discuss these terrible statistics with FIA member clubs and heads of state and highlight measures that must be taken to reduce the casualties. The number of road deaths in sub-Saharan Africa has already increased by over 40% over the past 15 years and if nothing is done, this figure is expected to rise again by at least 80% by 2020.

 “Since I was elected as president of the FIA three and half years ago, I have made road safety a priority of our Federation,” said Todt. “The FIA must become a major protagonist in this struggle at the global level, having not only the legitimacy but also the will to do so. And in this struggle, our primary partners, and our primary strength, are our clubs.”

Young Africans are the main victims of the lack of road safety, with road accidents already the fourth cause of death for the 15-44 age group, and the second after Aids for young men. Todt believes that motor sport can be used to educate drivers and get the safety message across to young people, but that governments must also take action.

“Road safety must be given the place it deserves on the international agenda: that of an absolute priority,” he said. “And if we want to achieve that, we must join forces. Road safety is a shared responsibility. And each person must shoulder his or her part, for it is together – and only together – that we shall win this battle. The first responsibility lies with national governments. Without them, without their commitment, nothing is possible.”

In Senegal, Todt and Michelle Yeoh discussed ways in which road safety could be tackled at both national and region levels during meetings with the Senegalese Motor Sport Federation (FSAM) and Senegal President Macky Sall. They also visited the Dakar Baobab circuit and hosted a press conference with FSAM’s President, Dialo Kane ‘Zator’.

From there Todt travelled to Benin, where he visited the Automobile Club of Benin (ACB), which is headed by former driver Patrick Lecompte and was affiliated to the FIA last year. The Club is involved in road safety activities via campaigns in schools and universities, and during a meeting at the club's headquarters, young people were invited to share their feeling about road safety in the country. Benin has a National Centre for Road Safety, which is a key element to success, but a national strategy, including the obligation to wear a safety belt, would help to reduce fatalities.

Lastly, the President travelled to Gabon for the inauguration of the new Automobile Club of Gabon (ACG), which was founded last year and is headed by Frédéric Bongo Ondimba. The occasion was used to launch a new hard-hitting road safety campaign which was praised by Todt, who said it would remind drivers of their responsibility.

While there he had a long discussion with Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba, whose commitment he highlighted after a new ‘100 Footbridges for the Future’ campaign was launched to try and protect pedestrians crossing dangerous roads. It is an important initiative, as pedestrian fatalities account for 38% of road deaths in sub-Saharan Africa.