Male identity and motor-mobility are deeply intertwined across much of the globe but nowhere is this relationship more strongly in evidence than in Africa. On the African continent, road transport work has always appeared, in essence, to be a masculinist domain: it is almost always men who are seen driving commercial vehicles, regulating loading activities in the lorry and bus parks (and now the motorcycle stages), undertaking roadside repairs, vulcanising tyres, and even serving fuel. This does not mean that women are entirely absent from the sector, but their place is commonly peripheral – constrained at least in part by hegemonic norms of femininity that shape women’s self-understandings. They typically supply cooked food, alcohol and sex to male road workers, or take on back-breaking work in the lowliest – and lowest paid – of porterage roles, head-loading goods along the road, carrying materials when assisting men making and mending roads, or loading vehicles. From time to time, women have aspired to infiltrate more lucrative areas of the sector, especially through ownership of commercial vehicles, but their closer engagement with the oily nuts and bolts of the road business remains rare. This chapter draws on a wide range of published and grey literature and some personal ethnographic research from a diversity of African countries and contexts to examine women’s efforts at engagement in the sector. The discussion spans women’s employment in road transport services (porterage, ticket-selling, taxis, buses, Bus Rapid Transit [BRT] and commercial trucks) and the road construction that supports transport service operations (engineering, planning, contracting, and labouring). The authors pay particular attention to the factors that so often continue to impede women’s progress in these arenas. The concluding section first references COVID-19 and its detrimental impacts on women transport workers’ jobs, then considers the potential for overcoming current barriers and promoting a more central space for women in transport operations, a development that could provide significant benefits across the sector.
Porter, G., & Omwega, N. (2022). Experiences of Women Workers in the African Road Transport Sector. In T. Wright, L. Budd, & S. Ison (Eds.), Women, Work and Transport (55-69). Emerald. https://doi.org/10.1108/s2044-994120220000016005