Light-Rail Promotes Green Transit in Africa

Addis Ababa’s light-rail system brings transit-oriented development to sub-Saharan Africa, reducing CO2 emissions and commuting times.

In September 2015, Addis Ababa launched its much-anticipated 34-km lightrail system. Expected to carry 60,000 people per hour in all directions, and handle one million commuters every day once fully operational, the project has been designed to make commuting easier for the city’s nearly four million residents.<sup>1</sup> <sup>2</sup>
Funded largely by China Railway Group Limited, the project is part of the city’s larger, long-term vision of growth and development. The light-rail line enables the Ethiopian capital to manage and shape its development along transit routes, meaning less congestion, less CO2 emissions from transport, and easier, faster commutes.

Relevance of solution

Addis Ababa is one of the fastest-growing cities in the world,3 and adequate public transit is crucial to ensure the city can manage its expected future growth. The light-rail project lays important groundwork, giving the Ethiopian capital a firm transit structure so that future development can occur alongside existing transit routes, reducing dependence on automobiles.

Triple Bottom Line


Shifting commuting from automobiles to public transit is one of the most effective strategies for lowering CO2 emissions from the transport sector.


Africa has less than 3% of the world’s motor vehicles, but more than 11% of global road fatalities.4 Investing in public transit can make African cities safer for commuters.


Public transport infrastructure has the potential to create high-quality, long lasting jobs, which supports strong local economies.5


  1. BBC News. “Addis Ababa’s Modern Light Railway Is Big Infrastructure Boost.” (2015)
  2. Mail & Guardian Africa. “Sub-Saharan Africa’s First Light Rail System Starts Operations — You Guessed it, in Ethiopia.” (2015)
  3. C40. “Cities Must Act Now to Prepare for the Climate Change Disasters of the Future.” (2016)
  4. Stockholm Environment Institute. “Transport and Environment in Sub-Saharan Africa.” (2013)
  5. World Resources Institute. “Transport Sector Key to Closingthe World’s Emissions Gap.” (2014)
  6. Photo © Ben Welle ()