Professorial Inaugural Lecture by Professor Michael Poku-Boansi
The Vice-Chancellor of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, through the Public Lectures Committee invites the University Community and the general public to a Professorial Inaugural Lecture scheduled as follows:
Abstract of the Lecture
Topic: “Transport poverty in Africa: Planning for our mobility futures in an era of sustainability.”
Poverty is one of the greatest challenges of humanity and the dominant discourse in development thinking, especially in developing countries. It is a key focus of development as it remains number one in the Sustainable Development Goals (Goal 1: No poverty) and a priority area of Africa Union’s Agenda 2063 (Poverty, Inequality, and Hunger). Although poverty is a global phenomenon, it is highly concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The conceptualisation and operationalisation of poverty, therefore, have evolved to include non-income dimensions even though there are varied views on the expression and operationalisation of the phenomenon. Beyond the indirect contribution, transport infrastructure also has a direct contribution to poverty reduction irrespective of the economic growth channel. However, the contribution of transport infrastructure to poverty reduction appears to depend on its impact on income and non-income dimensions of poverty. In income poverty, transport infrastructure provides different economic opportunities for poor people to raise their income levels through improved productivity from their limited resources.
Transport services are critical to the mobility of capital, people, and goods between production units and market centres. However, transport services in Africa are inefficient and are demonstrated by the high cost of vehicles, poor maintenance culture, and poor operating practices, among others. Consequently, transport poverty has been identified as a critical issue requiring urgent attention in academia, governance, local and international actors, and organisations.
Transport poverty has not received a universal definition or a single measure but is generally conceptualised as the inability of individuals to make the journeys needed such as to work and school. Relatedly, transport poverty is argued to connote mobility and accessibility poverty, social exclusion, or transport disadvantage. It is estimated that more than half of the world’s population live in cities, which are highly dynamic and complex entities, going through some transformation. In developing countries, cities have witnessed accelerated urbanisation driven by changing demographics, rural-urban migration, economic growth strategies, and capital flows. Even though these transformations have resulted in some opportunities, cities in the global south do face several adverse consequences. For instance, city dwellers often lack essential rights to the city as they have limited access to basic services.
Additionally, the quality of available services often varies and is rather costly; thus, worsening the poverty situation in general and transport poverty in particular. Despite this, transport poverty has not fully captured the attention of relevant stakeholders in developing countries. Moreover, given the persistent patterns of urbanisation and their attendant challenges, transport poverty has become a much larger and attention-based problem. Although the manifestations of poverty in Africa are extensively discussed, transport and mobility have received the least attention. This lecture thus uproots and engages transport poverty in Africa; explores current knowledge on the subject; situates it within empirical contexts and provokes discussions about research and policy futures for improved transport and mobility on the continent. Quoting a distinguished Professor in Urban and Regional Planning, Professor Eno Okoko, ‘Transportation is as old as man himself’ and plays a critical role in man’s activities by facilitating the movement of goods and passengers and poverty reduction efforts of households (Ekoko, 2018).
I submit that travel provides a way to access vital resources including employment, education, shopping, and promote social networks, all of which have an impact on one's quality of life. However, social inequality and exclusion are intrinsically related to limited mobility. ‘Doing-Nothing’ as a strategy for decision-making may appear cheaper and less laborious as it allows the status quo to perpetuate itself. Even though this strategy may be useful in certain instances, addressing the challenges associated with transport poverty cannot be one of such instances. I further submit that ‘Doing-Nothing’ implies longer travel time, air and noise pollution, traffic injuries, high fares, a car-dependency society, limited availability of public transport, individuals with low capacity to travel, and limited access to social and economic infrastructure, among others.
To meet the demands of the future, I proffer the following:
- Implement an integrated land use and transport planning that has improving accessibility levels as the overriding priority. Addressing the prevailing accessibility challenges and averting the possibility of them worsening should begin with addressing the problem of uncontrolled urban expansion. The distribution of land uses determines the location of activities. Hence, the spatial separation among the various land uses creates the need for interactions that manifest in travel by different mobility options.
- Redevelop informal and slum settlements into sustainable communities where access to basic socio-economic facilities abound, thus reducing the need to travel substantially.
- Prepare Local Transport Plans (LTPs) for the development of a sustainable and inclusive transportation system that seeks to ensure travel time savings, reductions in travel costs, accessibility improvement, and reduced negative impact of transport on the environment.
- Encourage local authorities to partner the private sector in providing improved bus services within their jurisdiction. Since people with low incomes tend to use commercial buses more than others, there is a case for improving local bus services which will result in reducing transport poverty. Offering concessionary fares for older, disabled, and poor people will further reduce the barriers to travel and can help to address poverty.
- The Government of Ghana should seriously work to implement public transport services (e.g., BRT) as one of the best ways to stabilise transport costs and particularly minimize the financial stress on lower income people. The BRT case in Dar as Salaam, Tanzania should inspire us as a country.
- Develop a National Transport Poverty Index led by the Ministries of Transport and Local Government and Rural Development and Academia to measure how far the various MMDAs are in addressing transport poverty. It will also be used to rank the various MMDAs. Variables such as transport access, transport mobility, transport affordability, exposure to transport externalities, and inclusiveness could serve as the basis for developing such an index. The development and use of the National Transport Poverty Index will be the first of its kind, globally, and will serve as a useful tool in shaping transport investment decisions.
- Institute community-based transport schemes that use commercial minibuses, with volunteer drivers which provide a service to meet a community's needs. Funding for this service could come from the fares paid and sometimes from local authorities.
- The Ministry of Transport and Academia must begin studies leading to the planning for Ghana’s transport futures related to electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, mobility as a service (MaaS), and other innovations to work in our local contexts. This recommendation may seem far from us but the emergence of ride-hailing services such as Uber, and Bolt, just to mention a few, should remind us of the global nature of the world we are in today and the need to prepare for the future.
Keywords: Transport poverty; Urbanisation; Mobility; Sustainability; Global South
Profile of Professor Michael Poku-Boansi
FGIP; MCAP; MISDS; BSc. (Kumasi); Ph.D. (Kumasi)
Deputy Director, School of Graduate Studies, KNUST
Professor Michael Poku-Boansi is a Professor of Planning at the Department of Planning, Faculty of Built Environment, College of Art and Built Environment, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, Ghana. As an Urban and Transportation Planner, Professor Michael Poku-Boansi has over a decade of experience in teaching, researching, and providing consultancy and mentorship.
Professor Poku-Boansi hails from Ejisu, in the Ejisu Municipality of the Ashanti region. His parents are Mr. Anthony Yaw Boansi and Mrs. Margaret Boansi of blessed memory. He is the second of five children of his parents. He had his basic education at the Services Primary School at the 1st Battalion Infantry (1BN), Michel Camp, Tema, Junior High School at Ashaiman No. 4 Junior Secondary School and his secondary education at Pope John Secondary School and Junior Seminary, Koforidua. Professor Michael Poku-Boansi obtained his bachelor’s degree in Planning from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in 2003, Settlement Planning Option and his doctoral degree also in Planning from the same University in 2008, after which he had his postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Leeds, United Kingdom. He also obtained funding from the Rockefeller Foundation to participate in the Professional Fellowship Programme in Bellagio, Italy. Prior to commencing his postgraduate education, Professor Poku-Boansi served as a Teaching and Research Assistant in the Department of Planning. He is a Fellow of Unity Hall. Professor Poku-Boansi holds certificates in Security Responsiveness and Financing Development from The Open Learning Campus of the World Bank. He also holds a certificate in Basic Advocacy.
Professor Michael Poku-Boansi began his academic career when he was appointed a Lecturer in February 2009 at the Department of Planning, Faculty of Built Environment, College of Art and Built Environment. Through the unwavering Grace of God and a personal commitment to hard work, Professor Poku-Boansi was promoted to the rank of Senior Lecturer in October 2012, Associate Professor in August 2017, and finally, Professor in August 2020.
Academic and Administrative Experience
Professor Michael Poku-Boansi is currently the Deputy Director of the School of Graduate Studies, KNUST, a position he has held since April 1, 2022. Prior to that Professor Poku-Boansi served as the Vice Dean of the School of Graduate Studies between January to March 2022. In August 2018, Professor Poku-Boansi assumed the headship of the Department of Planning, KNUST for three academic years, and between August 2020 to July 2021 also served as the Vice Dean of the Faculty of Built Environment, College of Art and Built Environment, KNUST. He was reappointed as the Head of the Department of Planning for a two-year term and re-elected the Vice Dean for the Faculty of Built Environment for another year but his appointment as the Vice Dean of the School of Graduate Studies meant he had to make way to allow the two positions to be filled.
Professor Poku-Boansi is the elected Professional Representative of the College of Art and Built Environment on the Academic Board and also serves as the Academic Board’s Representative on the Executive Committee of the KNUST. Between 2012 and 2016, he served as the Examinations Officer of the Department of Planning, after having served as the Assistant Examinations Officer for three (3) years.
Professor Poku-Boansi has served as Chairman and Member of several committees at KNUST. These include Chairman, Committee to Streamline IDL Theses Supervision, Chairman, Committee to Restructure Graduate Committee in Colleges in the KNUST, Kumasi, Chairman, KNUST Land Use Committee, Chairman, Steering Committee for the Construction of the New Administration Block, KNUST, Chairman, Committee to review the proposed merger between the KNUST Business School and the Department of Economics, Member, School of Graduate Studies Board, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana, Member, College of Art and Built Environment Appointments and Promotions Sub-Committee, KNUST, Member, College of Art and Built Environment Board, KNUST, Member/CABE Representative, Search Committee for the Renewal of the Appointment of Provost of College of Art and Built Environment, KNUST, Member of Committee to review the proposal for the conversion of the Department of Planning into a School of Planning and Spatial Sciences.
Professor Poku-Boansi also served as Member, Committee to Review the Proposal for the Elevation of the Offices of the Dean of Students and the Dean of School of Graduate Studies to the level of a College, Member, College of Art and Built Environment Mentorship Coordinating Team, Member, CABE Strategic Plan Oversight Committee, Member, Junior Members Disciplinary Committee, KNUST, Member, Committee to review KNUST Corporate Strategic Plan, Member, Search Committee for the Appointment of Provost of College of Health Sciences, Provost of College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Provost of College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Member, Committee to Review KNUST Transport Policy, Member, CABE Committee to engage MMDAs in implementing priority areas as part of KNUST Impact and Community Outreach.
Professor Poku-Boansi in the past also served as the Director of the Undergraduate Human Settlement Planning Programme, the Non-Professorial Representative of the College of Art and Built Environment (Formerly College of Architecture and Planning), and Member of the Team that prepared the KNUST Land Use Plan.
Membership of Professional Bodies
Professor Michael Poku-Boansi has served as a member of several bodies including the Commonwealth Association of Planners (CAP), the International Society for Development and Sustainability (ISDS), and the Research-Policy Community on Democratic Developmental Local Governance (DDLG) in Ghana Platform. Professor Poku-Boansi is a Fellow of the Ghana Institute of Planners (FGIP).
Teaching and Thesis Supervision and Examination
Professor Poku-Boansi’s teaching portfolio includes undergraduate and graduate courses such as Transportation Planning; Transport Planning and Land Use; Advanced Planning Surveys and Research Methods; Spatial Dimension of Development; Economics of Spatial Development; Settlement Growth and Management; and Project Analysis and Appraisal.
He has successfully supervised to completion of over 52 postgraduate theses comprising 6 PhDs and 46 masters (MPhil and MSc) and has examined over 80 graduate theses (Ph.D., MPhil, and MSc) from the KNUST, University of Ghana, Technische Universität Berlin, North-West University, South Africa, and the University of Energy and Natural Resources, Sunyani. His portfolio of supervised research works includes 95 Undergraduate students. He also serves as an Assessor for the National Accreditation Board.
Research Outputs and Publications
Professor Poku-Boansi’s research interests include Transportation Planning and Urban/Land Use Planning and their interrelationship. He also researches Climate Change, Housing, and Urban Resilience. Through his research, Professor Poku-Boansi has emerged as one of the leading African transport planning experts. His contribution to the field of urban and transport planning and urban studies has provided a richer understanding of the urban development dynamics in Ghana and Africa. He collaborates extensively with several researchers in Ghana, Africa, and beyond to undertake transdisciplinary research work.
Professor Michael Poku-Boansi has to his credit over 100 publications including papers in peer-reviewed Journals, Books, Book Chapters, Conference Proceedings, Policy Briefs, and over 40 Consultancy Reports. Professor Poku-Boansi has attended and presented his research at over 25 conferences and workshops globally. Professor Poku-Boansi has succeeded in placing his research at the service of society. His research output has informed various societal concerns and interventions related to public transport planning and governance, resettlement planning, urban planning, and urban development. The issues addressed by his research are highly relevant in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals, especially given the necessity of developing and promoting sustainable cities and making cities inclusive, safe, and resilient.
Professor Michael Poku-Boansi is an excellent researcher with a very good H-index of 17 on the Google Scholar Platform, and 13 on ResearchGate, with 101 Recommendations on ResearchGate. As of March 3, 2023, Professor Poku-Boansi had a Research Interest Score of 377.9 which is higher than 84% of ResearchGate members, 12,950 Publication Reads, and 12 Mentions. Professor Poku-Boansi is a reviewer for several international journals including Land Use Policy, Cities, Habitat International, Geoforum, GeoJournal, African Geographical Review, Urban Forum, Journal of Transport and Health, Papers in Regional Science, Research in Transportation Business and Management, Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, Journal of Sustainable Transportation and Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives. He has served as the Associate Editor for the Journal of Urban Affairs.
Grants and Consultancies
Professor Michael Poku-Boansi has attracted several grants from various funding organisations to the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology to support his research and has served as a consultant on many housing, urban/land use, and transport projects. Together with others, he has attracted research grants and funds amounting to over €1.9 million from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and TUM Global Incentive Fund within the last 5 years. His current research project Migration and Translocality is made up of a consortium of six Universities including the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, Technical University of Dortmund, and the University of Passau, all in Germany, the University of Ghana, Legon, and the University of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
Professor Poku-Boansi has considerable experience in the transport and mining sub-sectors, with emphasis on work carried out in socio-economic monitoring, project impact assessment, involuntary resettlement planning, and livelihood re-establishment. This experience has seen him consulting for the World Bank, the Ministry of Railways Development, the Urban Roads Department, Newmont Ghana Gold Limited, ASANKO Gold, German Technical Cooperation (GIZ), Oxfam Ghana, Millennium Development Authority (MiDA), ActionAid Ghana and AngloGold Ashanti.
Recently, Professor Poku-Boansi served as the Resettlement Specialist for the Feasibility Studies of the Railway Line from Kumasi – Paga (Central Spine) and Ghana – Burkina Faso Intercontinental Railway Project (Tema – Ouagadougou). He also served as the specialist for the Preparation of the Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) for Phase 1 of the Monrovia Urban Sanitation Infrastructure Project. Professor Poku-Boansi was the Socio-Economic Specialist for the Socio-Economic Monitoring of the Pokuase – Amasaman Road Interchange Project and prepared the Master Plan for the Tetrem and Esaase Resettlement Projects for Asanko Gold, comprising 411 houses and ancillary facilities.
Professor Michael Poku-Boansi has received many academic awards. He was the first to successfully complete his doctoral studies on KNUST Vice Chancellor’s Staff Development Programme. In 2019, he was adjudged the First Runner-Up in the Research and Publication category at the maiden College of Art and Built Awards in the Faculty of Built Environment. In the same year, he was also adjudged the First Runner-Up, Overall Best Senior Member in Research and Publication in the College of Art and Built Environment. Professor Poku-Boansi has received several Certificates of Recognition in the Review Process for the Journal of Transport and Health, Land Use Policy, Habitat International, and Cities. As a young undergraduate student, Professor Michael Poku-Boansi in 2002 won the Best Urban Economics Student in the Department of Planning.
Professor Michael Poku-Boansi was an active sportsman and an excellent footballer. In addition to winning several sporting laurels at the Senior Secondary School, he was also two times top scorer (goal king) in the Ghana University Sports Association (GUSA) Soccer Competition. He again won the top scorer award during the maiden West Africa University Games (WAUG) competition held at the University of Ghana, Legon. Professor Poku-Boansi was also a member of the Youth Team of Kumasi Asante Kotoko, during his undergraduate years, combining his studies with sporting passion. Professor Michael Poku-Boansi's exploits represent the perfect nexus between striving for both academic and sporting excellence. It tells us the two can co-exist.
Professor Poku-Boansi has and continues to provide mentorship for several students and younger faculty. He has a strong interest in the skills development and capacity building of his students and has invested time and resources in them to make sure they succeed academically and professionally. He always ensures that his students are self-motivated and develop a strong desire to accomplish their career aspirations and future endeavours. This is how he measures students’ success.
It is therefore not surprising that all the national service who have worked with him have pursued at least a master’s programme with several of them having proceeded to obtain their doctoral degrees. Some of his Ph.D. graduates are lecturers in Universities in Ghana and are continuing their research activities. He currently supervises one (1) post-Doctoral Research Fellow and serves as a mentor for young faculty members.
Community Service, Engagements, and Outreaches
Professor Michael Poku-Boansi has substantial experience in university teaching, collaborative research, international relations, and outreach service delivery. Professor Poku-Boansi has served as a member of the 'Consultative Meeting to discuss the World Bank Group Country Partnership Framework for Ghana, Member, Institute of Development and Technology Management, Cape Coast Academic Board, Member, Institute of Development and Technology Management, Cape Coast Appointments and Promotions Committee. He has served as an External Assessor for the Promotion of Academic Staff for the University of Education, Winneba, Ghana, SD Dombo University of Business and Integrated Development Studies (UBIDS), Wa, University of Cape Coast, Valley View University, University of Ibadan, among others.
Professor Poku-Boansi also served on the Team that prepared Planning Schemes for the State Housing Company of Ghana for their Affordable Housing Projects in Dedesua and Tamale. His services have led him to serve as a Resource Person for the Training on Integrating Population Variables into Planning for District Planners in Metropolitan, Municipal, and District Assemblies in Ghana. He was part of the team that trained newly elected Assembly members in the selected Districts in the Ashanti Region as part of their capacity building.
In other areas of resource mobilisation, he has secured a funding commitment of up to Three Million Ghana Cedis (GHC 3,000,000) from Construction and Development Support Ghana Limited as part of the fundraising efforts for the development of infrastructure for the School of Planning and Spatial Sciences
As a Planner, he is particularly interested in people and land relations and the implications thereof for sustainable land use management and development. He is a Fellow of the Rockefeller Foundation Professional Fellowship Programme and a Commonwealth Academic Fellow.
Professor Michael Poku-Boansi is married to Mrs. Natalia Poku-Boansi, the Regional Systems and Services Manager for Newmont Ghana Gold Limited, and has been blessed with three (3) children – Anthony, Marie-Agatha, and Raphael. He enjoys watching soccer and listening to country music as hobby. He is a Catholic and worships with the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic Chaplaincy on the KNUST campus.
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