Today, about 14 African countries and territories practice left-hand traffic (LHT) for their roads, while 41 African countries and territories implement right-hand traffic (RHT) for their roads. Globally speaking, only about 30% of the world's countries and territories implement left-hand traffic (LHT), which accounts for about a sixth of the world's area, 35% of its population and 25% of its roads.
Namibia drives on the left side of the road, just like South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. Left-hand traffic (LHT) is the practice of keeping to the left side of the road, in bidirectional traffic. The steering wheels of the cars in such countries are located on the right-hand side, and they are known as right-hand drive (RHD) vehicles. The driver here sits on the right side of the car, and roundabouts work in clockwise direction.
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History of LHT
Well before cars were invented, it is believed that all traffic used to follow the left-hand traffic rule. The reasons for this are not absolutely certain, but the majority believes it arose as a matter of safety. As most people were right-handed, they found it easier to mount their horses from the left. It made sense to climb from the side of the road rather than from the middle, hence they chose the left-hand rule. At the same time, the right hand would be free for greetings or for defense (by holding a sword).
However, when Napoleon came to power, he began changing the left-hand rule to right-hand to suit his own requirements. As he was left-handed, he preferred to stay on the right side of the road with his sword in his left-hand, ready for attack or defense. So he introduced the right-hand system in countries or territories he conquered.
The French Revolution also contributed to popularizing the right-hand rule. The farmers in France were previously forced to travel on the right side of the road while the aristocrat travelled on the left side. Post the revolution, travelling on the right side became a symbol of freedom that quickly spread to other European countries.
However, the United Kingdom was not affected by this change, being an isolated island nation, just like other island nations, such as Japan and Indonesia.
The French introduced RHT to its colonies in Africa, while the British and Portuguese colonies implemented LHT.
Although, early in the 20th century Namibia was a German colony, after the 2nd World War, Namibia was administered by South Africa, until it gained independence in 1990. Hence, Namibia drives on the left following British led South African rules.
Below is a list of both LHT and RHT countries in Africa.
Countries that follow RHT in Africa:
4 Burkina Faso
7 Cape Verde
8 Central African Republic
11 Côte D'Ivoire
12 Democratic Republic Of Congo
15 Equatorial Guinea
31 Republic Of Congo
34 Sierra Leone
36 South Sudan
38 São Tomé And Príncipe
41 Western Sahara
Countries that follow LHT in Africa:
2 Eswatini (Swaziland)
10 South Africa