‘Always do your best so you cannot say that you could have done better’. His father’s advice still echoes in Anthony Ohazulike’s head. ‘I try to exhaust all possibilities, so I don’t have to regret anything.’ Anthony has come a long way with this strategy. He passed a very competitive exam, which allowed him into one of only three special science schools for boys in Anambra State in Nigeria. ‘Everything changed after that’, Anthony smiles. ‘Competition was so fierce that I pushed myself continuously. Third-year pupils from these secondary schools know more than university students.’
Yet, the story had only just begun. To enter university, Anthony needed a scholarship. But these were only given to villagers who lost one or both parents. Since Anthony was lucky to still have both his mother and father alive, he did not stand a chance. Until a letter came in: ‘There were 8 scholarships available, but they decided to grant a 9th scholarship to me. Based on merit.’ Anthony could not believe his luck. And once again, worked hard.
After graduating with honours in Computer Science and Mathematics, he started working in commercial bank. Two years later, he received a scholarship to do a Master’s program in Applied Mathematics at Twente University. So he packed his bags.
Money changes behaviour
During the Master’s program, Anthony worked for mobility consultant Goudappel Coffeng. At this time there was much ado about road pricing in the Netherlands. Plans to link taxes to driven kilometres failed miserably because of lack of support. Anthony felt triggered by the situation and decided to start a PhD research on road pricing. ‘You can use money to achieve a given objective. Fees can change people’s behaviour. But it just doesn’t work when stakeholders have conflicting aims. In a new model, we need to come up with a toll that benefits all. Even the road users themselves.’
Game theory seemed to be the solution: one stakeholder drafts a system to achieve his own objectives, the second adapts it to meet his own standards, the third does the same, and so on. This process is repeated until improvements are no longer possible. It is a lengthy process, so Anthony developed a computer simulation model to replace it.
But what benefits can we think about, except that the government will earn more money from the poor road users? ‘That is a misconception. Prerequisite for a good tolling is that all money is put back into the system. Possible goals could be to reduce emission, noise or traffic jams by stimulating people to take other routes or to choose other departure times.’ Anthony emphasizes a funny characteristic of road pricing: ‘Toll does not have to be high to achieve a certain effect. If you have to pay 10 euros for one route and 5 euros for the other, you choose the latter. Interestingly, if the numbers were 1 euro versus 0,50 euro, you would still choose the latter. This means that toll can be rather low to achieve the same effect.’
Anthony has achieved a lot but refuses to be called gifted. ‘Nobody is gifted in life. It all depends how you develop yourself. Anybody can do the same within the same conditions, as long as you are stubborn enough to continue.’