SIERRA LEONE: Supporting enhancement of private sector bus operators in Freetown

In post-conflict Sierra Leone, poor infrastructure and limited government capacity constrain mobility in the capital of Freetown. Public transport is provided by the state-owned SLRTC bus company and informal private mini-buses, taxis, and motorcycles. However, aging vehicle fleets, inefficient operations, and inadequate regulation impair service.

The government requested World Bank support to restructure SLRTC to improve efficiency and explore opportunities to attract PSP in the sector. PPIAF-funded studies provided critical diagnostics on the bus company, the legal and institutional environment, and analyzed the user experience with a focus on women’s mobility constraints.

Surveys and focus groups captured the opinions of diverse public transport users. An astonishing 18 percent of women reported sexual harassment on public transport, and half cited physical violence as the biggest barrier to using public transport. Recommendations for addressing these problems included restructuring SLRTC into a regulator, enabling private operators to contract services, and establishing priority corridors.

PPIAF’s work directly informed the $50 million World Bank Integrated and Resilient Urban Mobility Project (IRUMP) in Sierra Leone. The bus renewal program, which requires private operators to form companies and repay loans, is expected to leverage an additional $10 million in private financing. PPIAF’s gender analysis shaped provisions for women’s safety and mobility in IRUMP’s design and helped establish indicators for measuring results.

Despite delays, IRUMP continues to work toward the long-term goal of private participation in bus operations. PPIAF’s outputs will remain relevant while implementation is ongoing.

By evaluating mobility from a gender perspective, PPIAF provided key diagnostics on Sierra Leone’s bus sector and informed World Bank transport investments. Its work spotlighted women’s needs—paving the way for safer, more inclusive public transit as IRUMP upgrades the system. PPIAF’s strategic support is catalyzing major infrastructure upgrades to benefit all Freetown residents.

Approved date2021-04-28
RegionSub-Saharan Africa