Characterizing user needs and practices in secondary cities: Insights into the role of bicycles in mitigating mobility exclusion in Malawi and Kenya

Institute for Social Development (ISD), University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa

EP-2021-MAC-04, Mulugeta F. Dinbabo, Institute for Social Development (ISD), University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa


  • Gail Jennings Research consultant and PhD research student, University of Cape Town PO Box 181, Noordhoek (7979), Cape Town, South Africa
  • Winnie Sambu, World Bicycle Relief and University of Cape Town PHD researcher, Department of Economics ℅ AfricaWorks 7 Bree Street, Cape Town (8001), South Africa
  • Alisha Myers, World Bicycle Relief ℅ AfricaWorks 7 Bree Street, Cape Town (8001), South Africa


A large proportion of Africa’s population face barriers that affect access to essential services (water, education, and healthcare) and sources of livelihoods. Besides low financial resources, availability of and access to adequate transportation is one of the main factors. The aftereffects include adverse impacts on education and health outcomes, and reduced productivity. Research suggests that some groups, such as low-income women and girls living in urban informal or rural areas, are disproportionately affected. However, availability of regular and comprehensive data on transportation needs and experiences, and how these vary across diverse groups, remains a key knowledge gap. Additionally, there is lack of data on the underlying drivers of low bicycle use among key groups (such as women and girls) despite its potential as a low-cost and sustainable transportation solution. In this research, we aim produce evidence to address these knowledge gaps, drawing on research that will be undertaken in two secondary cities: Zomba (Malawi) and Kakamega (Kenya).

The main objectives are

  • 1) to understand the transportation needs and experiences of marginalized populations in secondary cities across sub-Saharan Africa,
  • 2) examine the viability of bicycles as a transportation solution, and
  • 3) understand the factors underlying uptake of the bicycles,
  • 4) test the applicability of an analytical framework in understanding transportation choices with a focus on bicycles.

The research will draw on both secondary and primary data. A mixed methods approach (quantitative and qualitative data) will be used while a participator action will be incorporated throughout the research process. The study findings will be instrumental in engagements on the design of policies and programmes to improve transportation access and user experiences of those living in secondary cities.