Gendered Differences in Mobility and the Demand for Transport in Ethiopia

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photo by Gift Habeshaw via Unsplash.

Urban expansion in Africa offers opportunities for growth and development, but such growth will also present significant challenges to the planning, managing and financing of public infrastructure and services, particularly urban transportation systems.

Inadequate transportation in African cities has a particularly disproportionate effect on women, who are likely to face additional social and structural barriers that prevent them from accessing public services. To this end, a woman’s constrained mobility adversely affects her autonomy, economic and social empowerment and overall well-being.

new policy brief by Anastasiia Arbuzova, Tigabu Getahun, Ammar A. Malik and Mahesh Karra share results from a study conducted with couples from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Couples were randomly assigned to either: 1) a Woman Arm, where the taxi service and credit was offered to women; 2) a Man Arm, where the credit was offered to men; or 3) a Couples Arm, where the credit was offered to the couple jointly. The policy brief, co-published with the International Growth Centre (IGC), focuses on how mobility and latent travel demand vary by gender, particularly for women, with the introduction of improved transport.

Main Findings:
  • The authors find no significant differences in voucher take‑up (about 75 percent of respondents in each arm took at least one trip), total trips made and the proportion of credit spent, suggesting that the improved transport option may have contributed to closing the physical mobility gap.
  • Although the authors do not see significant differences in the total number of trips, participants in the Woman Arm spent, on average, 13 Ethiopian Birrs (ETB) more per trip than in the Man Arm, suggesting they might have traveled longer distances.
  • Women were significantly more likely than men to go on taxi trips alone (62 percent in Woman Arm compared to 48 percent in Man Arm). The proportion of trips made with the spouse was lowest in the Couples Arm (only 17 percent of all trips), potentially because spouses could travel separately. The proportion of trips made with children is higher in the Woman Arm (34 percent) than in the Man Arm (21 percent).
  • The intervention helped respondents to reduce costs related to searching for jobs: about 30 percent of women and 24 percent of men who made at least one trip agree that the taxi service helped with their job search. This observation suggests the presence of a spatial mismatch, where job opportunities for women and lower‑income households are located farther from their places of residence.

Transport is gender‑sensitive, and the provision of high‑quality, affordable transport has direct implications for more expansive measures of social and economic well-being, including employment, job seeking and labor force participation, for women. Investigating gender-specific travel demand will help policymakers identify gender‑based barriers and inequalities in mobility and will provide a basis for developing more inclusive transportation strategies.

Read the Policy Brief