INSTITUTIONAL INITIATIVES IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD: A REVIEW OF THE 1990s
Urban Transport Research Group,
Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment,
University of Cape Town,
Private Bag, Rondebosch, 7701
In a review of twelve cities in Sub-Saharan Africa undertaken for the World Bank and the
United Nations, Bultynck (1992) noted weaknesses or non-existence of supervisory and co-
ordinating structures in the urban transport sector. Subsequently the World Bank have given a
high profile to institutional reform in projects they have undertaken in Pusan, India (Bajpai
and Hong, 1996) and in Ghana (Kwakye and Fouracre, 1996 and 1998). Vasconcellos (1996)
views institutional issues as one of the key problems facing the development of urban
transport and De Saint Laurent (1998) says that what South Africa needs is an ‘institutional
In this paper the notion of Institutional Planning Frameworks (IPFs) is explored. In Section 2
a definition of Institutional Planning Frameworks developed by Barat (1990) is presented, and
the issue of success and failure in IPFs is discussed in Section 3. A series of developing world
examples are presented in Section 4 and finally, in Section 5 conclusions are drawn.
2. DEFINING INSTITUTIONAL PLANNING FRAMEWORKS
Transport planning is not undertaken in isolation from other activities. Many agencies are
involved and it is these organisations or individuals, plus the formal or informal linkages
between them, which constitute an Institutional Planning Framework (IPF). The IPF can be
viewed as having three parts: organisations, procedures and resources, which are co-
ordinated by a linking management structure and guided by planning philosophies,
procedures and techniques. Organisations would include the national, provincial and local
authority authorities, but also the transport operators and user groups. The legal and
regulatory systems which guide transport operations are procedures of the IPF. These can be
at many different levels: national, regional or local. Organisations can call on resources
principally in the form of funding, or human capital. These components of the IPF are
illustrated in Figure 1, below.
Figure 1: Components of the Institutional Planning Framework. (Adapted from Figure 7.1 of
3. SUCCESS AND FAILURE IN IPFs
A review of over fifty papers from international conferences, journals or books, concerned
with institutions in the developing world (Kane, 2000) found very few examples of ‘success’ in
institutional planning frameworks. Generally the papers which do focus on non-technological
issues concentrate on problems which have been found. Others have generalised their
experiences and have identified what, in their view, is needed to enable improvements in
urban transport. Dimitriou (1990b, p.383) talks of a new ‘developmental’ approach to
transport planning, and gives a number of guidelines for planners to follow in order to achieve
it. It is clear that Dimitriou considers these guidelines to be prerequisites for successful urban
transport. Vasconcellos (1996) identifies principles which he believes have driven urban
transport planning to date, and then suggests four alternative principles: accountability of the
process; social progressiveness, that is, a system which detects and fills accessibility and
equity gaps; equitable appropriation of space and sustainability. Again, one can assume that a
system in which these assumptions are fully addressed would be deemed successful by
Vasconcellos. It is clear from a comparison of these two examples that different individuals
will each have a different idea of what ‘success’ means, and that, fundamentally, the transport
planning exercise is a subjective one, where the underlying values of those involved will
surface in the policies and projects which they adopt. If one accepts that transport planning is
a subjective exercise, then it is impossible to derive one definition of success, since ‘success’
will be as variable as the belief-systems are in the developing world. Successful practice in
Mumbai, for example, may seem very inappropriate in Mexico City. Despite the lack of
consensus on what success means, the articles reviewed for this paper found that it is possible
to identify features of the urban transport system which are commonly considered by authors
to be worthy of change. Hence, it has been possible to identify from case studies some
common themes which probably have some local relevance in South Africa, given the pool of
common experiences shared by the planners of urban transport in developing countries.
4. INSTITUTIONAL PLANNING FRAMEWORK INITIATIVES IN THE
Due to space constraints it is not possible in this paper to discuss case studies for all elements
of Barat’s Institutional Planning Framework model. The focus in this section is on the aspects
which are less frequently discussed in the literature, that is: organisations; resources of human
capacity; management and control; and planning philosophy, procedures and techniques. The
issues of IPF procedure and of funding resources are covered elsewhere (Kane, 2000).
Calls for organisational change in the literature reviewed are largely in response to widespread
fragmentation in the functions and roles of agencies responsible for transport, and the
apparent lack of co-ordination between those agencies. This was particularly evident in
Africa (Fouracre et al, 1994; Kwakye, 1995; Bultynck, 1992). In India (Datta, 1998;
Kulkarni, 1998; Khare and Agarwal, 1998) Datta noted some cities with 10-15 agencies
having urban transport responsibility and the urban transport situation was described as
reaching crisis proportions. Fragmentation of urban administration was also noted in a review
of Latin America’s mega-cities (Figueroa, 1996). There are two main proposals in the
literature: for greater co-ordination of agencies; and for de-centralisation of responsibilities.
These are dealt with separately below.
The recognition of the fragmented organisational arrangement in many developing countries,
and the need for greater co-operation, is not new. In Caracas, for example, a single
metropolitan transport authority was proposed by consultants in 1976, but has yet to be
implemented, despite the seeming necessity of it (Boccalandro et al, 1996). Elsewhere in
Latin America there have been difficulties in implementing single Transport Authorities, due
to political constraints in Buenos Aires (Turco and Arcusin, 1998) and due to lack of
agreement between local authorities in Rio de Janiero (Ratton Neto, 1998). Despite these
difficulties, the call for co-ordinated metropolitan Transport Authorities is widespread (Goel
and Gupta, 1996; Victor, 1996; Rivasplata, 1996; Bultynck, 1998; Mitric, 1994). In South
Africa the development of new Transport Authorities has been described as a ‘key
challenge’.(Walters, 1998) and is a major principle embedded in the most recent transport
A metropolitan Transport Authority implies some level of decentralisation of functions, but
the UNCHS, are specific in their reference to this. They promote that urban transport
decision-making should be decentralised to the local level, as a means of ensuring that all
urban residents are adequately served by effective transport services at affordable prices
(Williams, 1998). Vasconcellos (1996) notes that excessive centralisation of powers in
developing countries can hinder local authority decision-making, and this is demonstrated in
Cairo where a strong central state has apparently conspired against local level implementation
So what would these decentralised, unified Transport Authorities look like? Victor (1996)
suggests that they should follow French and German models of structure. Rivasplata,
referring to Santiago (1996); Walters, referring to South Africa (1998); Agarwal, referring to
Indian cities (2000) and Williams (1998), referring to UNCHS policy, all suggest a model
which separates an elected, representative political body – who define goals and ask
fundamental questions about policy direction – from an executive body who manage the
implementation of the decisions. The executive would comprise of employees, or sub-
contractors, to the authority, with specialist knowledge and it would be their responsibility to
define the product or service most capable of implementing the goals of the elected body.
Walters (1998) defines the elected body as ‘strategic’ and the executive body as ‘tactical’.
Case studies of fully functioning and successful transport authorities as described above were
not generally evident in the literature. Nevertheless, there appear to have been some moves
towards co-ordination in many countries. These vary widely in their scope and level of
apparent success but two themes are evident: the development of specialist units, often
comprising professionals and interested employees of state; and the instigation of inter-
ministerial or inter-sectoral committees. In the well known Curitiba example the IPPUC
(Curitiba Research and Planning Institute) is a technical group of local planners, architects
and engineers who have effectively influenced the development of the public transport system
there (Rabinovitch and Hoehn, 1995). Similarly, the World Bank supported Urban Transport
Project in Ghana initiated the professional Urban Transport Unit to help move that project
forward (Kwakye and Fouracre, 1996) and Buenos Aires has a Metropolitan Transport Unit to
oversee some of the roles which a Transport Authority would undertake (Turco and Arcusin,
1998). Meanwhile in South Africa there are technical committees at metropolitan, provincial
and national levels (Chinnappen and Hugo, 2000).
In Ghana the technical committees preceded the development of committees of political
representatives. Ghana now has inter-ministerial committees in place (Kwakye and Fouracre,
1996; Kwakye et al, 1997); inter-sectoral committees have been developed and urban
transport policy, regulation and execution issues are now under one minister. Buenos Aires
also has political committees looking at urban transport issues at the three levels of
government (Boccalandro et al, 1996), as does South Africa (Chinnappen and Hugo, 2000).
In summary we can conclude that:
there are widespread calls for organisational change, and particularly for greater co-
ordination between, and integration of, agencies for urban issues.
many suggest decentralised transport authorities should be adopted, but examples of these
are not generally evident.
however, there are clear practical moves towards political and technical liaison in several
4.2 Human Capacity Resources
The particular importance of building human capacity for the improvement of IPFs is
mentioned several times in the papers reviewed, and is noted as a specific lesson which has
been learned from the Sub-Saharan Africa Transport Policy Program, which is aimed at
improving transport sector performance (Bultynck, 1998). Bultynck notes that in order to
improve the urban transport system through sector policy reform, the establishing of an
institutional and regulatory framework is absolutely necessary if any developments are to be
sustained, and these changes require a strengthening of local expertise. In an earlier review of
twelve Sub Saharan states he noted that one of the traits for success was “continual and
systematic” training, controlled by government. (Bultynck, 1992). Ghana is one country
which is participating in the SSATP, and the findings there confirm the overall conclusions
reached by Bultynck. In the earliest days of the urban transport development work there, two
requirements were determined for the successful operation of public transport: the creation of
a professional cadre at local and central levels, and qualified staff to maintain this cadre.
(Fouracre et al, 1994). In this regard, two staff have been sent overseas for post-graduate
training, there have been secondments, attendance at conferences and seminars, and short
courses for all local technical staff have been considered. (Kwakye and Fouracre, 1996). It is
not only in the SSATP that the importance of human capacity development has been noted. In
Buenos Aires the development of a new institutional approach to co-ordinated transport
included as an important component the development of core groups of technical skills
(Turco and Arcusin, 1998). Dimitriou (1990) noted the need to enhance local government
capabilities through specialist training in Indonesia in order for successful project
implementation, and in Lae City Puvanachandran (1996) saw the need for much more
attention needed for staff training. In Nigeria also, the government has responded to
management problems in mass transit by introducing training and guidelines for operators.
One current theme is a focus on the training of local staff, and the criticism of the use of
international consultants. Consultants’ planning and policy studies in Ghana were said to be
too numerous, with too obvious conclusions and unrealistic recommendations. Expatriate
input was found to be expensive and perhaps only temporarily effective, unless it was
systematically transferred to local staff (Kwakye and Fouracre, 1996). Overall, the SSATP
has suggested that expatriate advisors should act as ad-hoc facilitators and advisors only and
that there needs to be ownership by local staff, and targeted training if the use of expatriates is
to be worthwhile. (Bultynck, 1998). Puvanachandran, discussing the case of Lae City in
Papua New Guinea agrees that local staff should be the primary agents for change, and that if
consultancy services are used, then they should not conclude at a final report or plan, but
rather should cover short to medium term implementation. (Puvanachandran, 1996).
Lack of appropriate training is also evident on the ground, with an emphasis on large projects
and the parallel neglect of smaller, low-cost initiatives. De Saint-Laurent (1998), in a review
of South African urban transport sees the lack of low-cost well prepared field tests as one key
concern, and the need for a renewed focus on low-cost measures is also raised in India
(Bandopadhyaya, 1996; Datta, 1998). Given the crisis in funding in developing countries, and
the relatively large benefits possible from low-cost measures, it is then pertinent to ask why
the use of low-cost measures has failed to become more widespread. Mitric provides some
useful evidence on this matter in his review of experience in Cairo (1994). In the early 1980s
the World Bank initiated an unusual urban transport programme (for that time) in Cairo,
mainly consisting of low-cost measures. A review of experience since then indicates that
Cairo went in the opposite direction, towards metro and road construction. It is suggested by
Mitric that there were several reasons for the inconsistency between the technical advice given
and the actual action taken. One reason was the small amount of institutional capacity
available to undertake lower-cost improvements. Developing countries are almost forced
towards large-scale investment due to insufficient understanding about how to design,
implement and maintain low-cost measures on behalf of the local staff. This is not a problem
unique to developing countries, however. A recent UK report identified that “a significant
number of those involved in transport planning still viewed their tasks in the formal teams
which have been the hallmark of much of the engineering input to the profession – on the one
hand, big projects, and on the other, formal equilibrium modelling” (Chisholm, 2000). A
further hypothesis for the lack of low-cost measures implemented is that they are not
prestigious enough for political support. Mitric argues that both the political and institutional
issues need more consideration.
In summary, we can conclude that :
The development of local human capacity in urban transport institutions, through targeted
training, is vital.
Low-cost measures are worthy of increased attention, but this may require specialised
4.3 Management and Control
Management and control of the IPF is an issue which cuts across organisations, procedures
and resources. In a democracy there is the need for an official body working in conjunction
with elected members, using some planning process. Issues associated with the elected
members are discussed in this section. The matter of planning process is discussed in the
A number of authors have noted the importance of the political dimension of transport
planning, that is, the need to take note of differences in and the influence of power, both in the
developed world (Ahlstrand, 1998; Goetz and Sczyliowicz, 1997; Gomez-Ibanez, 1996;
Johnston et al, 1988; Kain, 1990; Meyer and Miller, 1984 and Wachs, 1995) and in the
developing world (Kwakye, 1995; Puvanachandran, 1996 and Vasconcellos, 1996). The
consensus in this work is that transportation planning is an inherently political exercise, and
that ignoring the political dimension is perilous and unlikely to lead to success in the long run.
Vasconcellos notes that the political aspects are perhaps even more important to consider in
developing countries than elsewhere, due to the ‘fragile’ nature of democratic processes in
those countries. In the developing world, he argues, political representation mechanisms are
not strong, and decision-making processes are dominated by an essentially middle-class elite,
who make decisions favouring themselves. Given the apparent importance of politics in
transport, the literature used in this study was examined for examples where policy and
political aspects have contributed to notable success and failure, and these are described
Several writers noted the need for a concrete, clearly articulated and well communicated set
of policy goals for developing countries (Bolade, 1998; Bultynck, 1992 and 1998; Dimitriou;
1990 and Krynauw and Anderson, 2000). Generally however, even where policies were in
place, there was often a lack of political will for their implementation, or else the policy
changed too frequently for it to be effectively implementable. This again is well documented
by those writing of the Indian context (Bhatnagar, 1996; Datta, 1998; Kulkarni, 1998). Lack
of political will to implement policy was also evident in Caracas (Boccalandro et al, 1996) and
is discussed by Mitric in the case of Cairo (1994).
Political will to implement policy is noted as a key success factor in the Curitiba case
described above and in the ‘Arrive Alive’ case here in South Africa (Chinnappen and Hugo,
2000). In Faislabad, Pakistan, a prime-ministerial visit and a strong local leader helped to
overcome a system which had previously stalled in attempts to improve public transport. This
political intervention lead to the formation of a Non-Governmental Organisation which was
charged with changing the public transport system. To date the system has demonstrated
some notable improvements. (Abbas Anjum and Russell, 1997 and Russell and Abbas
Other case studies suggest that unless all key role players are involved with the transport
planning decision-making process then there are likely to be problems. In 1998 De Saint
Laurent warned that decision-makers need to be more firmly involved if the ‘remarkable’
Moving South Africa policy initiative was not to be shelved. This was re-iterated by Krynauw
and Anderson, again in the South African context. Kunaka (1996) notes that for developing
countries generally, both users, non-users, operators and government need involvement.
Inclusivity in the decision-making process is also called for in Ghana, where policy
development without the involvement of the transport trade unions is considered futile, due to
the power they have over the public transport terminal buildings and organisation (Fouracre et
Although political issues were often noted in the literature as important, methods for dealing
with politicians or key role players, were very limited. One interesting approach was
demonstrated by Villegas Lopez (2000) in Mexico City. In evaluating a status quo and policy
alternative, the writer compares economic costs and benefits; financial feasibility and then
political feasibility, that is the likelihood of interested parties (such as federal government,
motorists, motor industry, opposition parties, environmental activists and others) to agree or
disagree with the proposed policy alternatives. The conclusion to Villegas Lopez’s work is
that, despite the apparent attractiveness of the policy alternative, the status quo scenario is the
most politically acceptable, and so it stands.
In summary, we can conclude that :
urban transport planning is an inherently political exercise, and this needs to be accounted
for in the planning process.
lack of political will can be a problem, and so consensus building and participation
strategies form a key part of the planning process.
4.4 Planning philosophy, procedures and techniques
A widely quoted example of ‘success’ is Curitiba (Rabinovitch and Hoehn, 1995). It is
interesting to note that in addition to a clearly articulated policy framework, policy
development in Curitiba follows an unusual pattern which is in contrast to the traditional
approaches of transport planning. Problem solving is seen in Curitiba to be a continuous
process, rather than a one-off plan or policy framework. It is accepted that small incremental
changes can, over the longer term, bring about large changes, and so the process of policy
making and project adoption is one of ‘trial-and-error’. Proposals are made, the ideas are
tested at a conceptual level and then applied in the field. Feedback and monitoring from the
application is then used to assess the success of the intervention. The Curitiba model of
planning also recognises financial constraints early in the planning process and the need for
planning which explicitly spell out fund requirements are also called for elsewhere (Datta,
1998; Rivasplata, 1996).
Traditional methods of transport planning have tended to neglect funding matters, relegating
them to one aspect of an evaluation framework, which usually comes towards the end of the
planning process. In practice this can lead to a lot of wasted effort by transport planners,
designing projects or schemes which are bound for failure due to lack of available resources.
Generally speaking transport planning approaches have been imported from the developed
world, and have been implemented with some refinement for local conditions. However, a
number of authors have questioned the validity of using this approach. Dimitriou (1990) is a
particularly vocal opponent, and says that conventional approaches to transport planning are
inappropriate to Third World countries, and part of the reason for this is the lack of
institutional resources for planning, co-ordination and management. Vasconcellos criticises
conventional approaches for being unreasonable in a Third World context (1996), and that a
lack of reliable data can lead to ‘absurd’ results. He notes that the approaches were invented
and adjusted mainly for European and North American conditions, which are dominated by
considerations of accommodating the car, in an environment of high car ownership. Others
have similarly criticised the application of conventional planning techniques to the developing
world context. (Thomson, 1983 cited in Atkins, 1986; Kane, 1998; Khisty, 1993).
In summary, we can conclude that :
Policy goals need to be concrete, clear, well communicated, and adapted through an on-
going monitoring process.
There are few existing guidelines to help transport planners achieve effective political and
community participation in the transport planning process, or to assist them in the
formulation of clear planning goals.
More generally, conventional planning processes are inappropriate to developing world
conditions and need to be re-evaluated.
5. IMPLICATIONS FOR SOUTH AFRICAN DEVELOPMENTS
Have South African planners learnt from their counterparts elsewhere? South African
planners have made progress in areas where other developing countries have struggled, but
there still appear to be some lessons to be learnt. Looking to the future, there may be benefit
in focusing on the use of smaller, low-cost traffic engineering measures for improving
transport, rather than on costly infrastructure projects. This which will require new skills to
be developed by transport planners, both in the design of low-cost proposals, and in the
promotion of these measures, and of transport improvement in general, to elected decision-
Despite an inheritance of fragmentation in institutional functions and responsibilities for
transport, there has been some progress during the 1990s towards consolidation and
rationalisation. In developing the co-ordinated Transport Authorities called for in the latest
legislation, South Africa also needs to heed the warnings against excessive centralisation.
South African planning techniques have tended to follow conventional practice elsewhere, and
have placed the question of funding towards the end of the planning process, which can lead
to a series of wish-lists rather than fundable proposals. This can be blamed in part on the
education process, and although national government takes some responsibility for education,
it could be argued that significant and widespread changes in the training of transport planners
have not been evident in the 1990s.
In conclusion, there is clearly a need for the on-going monitoring and assessment of progress
in institutional development, and a critical look at practice in other developing countries can
offer some lessons for South Africa.
The author would like to thank the CODATU organisation for funding the work (Kane, 2000)
which informed this paper, and Roger Behrens of the Urban Transport Research group at UCT
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Lisa Kane is a graduate civil engineer who specialised in transportation planning whilst
working for The MVA Consultancy and Oscar Faber TPA in the UK. She has worked at the
University of Cape Town since 1996 and is currently an Honorary Research Associate in the
Urban Transport Research Group, which is part of the Faculty of Engineering and the Built
Environment. Her main field of interest is transportation planning method.
INSTITUTIONAL INITIATIVES IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD:
A REVIEW OF THE 1990s
Urban Transport Research Group,
Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment,
University of Cape Town,
Private Bag, Rondebosch, 7701
This paper draws on work undertaken by the author in 2000 for the CODATU organisation,
which required the review of over fifty papers concerned with institutional change in urban
transport in the developing world. The need for institutional change in developing countries
was a strong theme throughout the literature.
Barat (1990) considers the institutional planning frameworks in Third World cities to have
three elements: organisations, procedures and resources. According to Barat’s model, these
are guided by a management and control structure and by planning philosophy, procedures
and techniques. This paper begins with a brief introduction discussing the importance of
institutional issues in urban transport, and then describes Barat’s model of institutional
planning frameworks. The paper goes on to review the literature on institutional development
in the developing world which has either identified common problem areas, or which has
highlighted some successes. Some of the interesting themes to emerge from this literature
review are the widespread calls for institutional integration; the high profile given in the
literature to human resources development; the recognition of the political nature of transport
decision-making; the need for a fresh emphasis on low-cost solutions; and the apparent
inappropriateness of current planning techniques. Using this literature review, it has been
possible to draw some conclusions for South Africa on imperatives for institutional change.