After Tech Week, Bicycle Week and Congested Cities Week earlier in the year, our very first region-specific themed week has drawn to a close, featuring eleven articles exploring urban innovations and Africa. Judging by the feedback received over the last seven days, content has been well received.
We kicked off Urban Innovations + Africa by looking at urban agriculture. In Growing Potential: Africa’s Urban Farmers, guest contributor Anna Plyushteva expressed her concern that ‘despite its vast popularity, local authorities tend to either ignore or prohibit urban farming on a premise that it is unsightly, unhygienic and incompatible with progress and modernity’, concluding that as African cities evolve ‘well-managed local food production may soon be indispensable rather than desirable’. One reader noted that the popularity of urban farming may be about lack of choice, at least in Angola, where ‘during the civil war landmines were placed throughout the countryside, especially on farm land’.
Monday saw another post from regular This Big City contributor Adam Davies, aka Walkonomics. In African Cities are Walking Cities, but are they Walkable? Adam stated that ‘over 60% of trips in Addis Ababa are made on foot, while just 9% of trips are made in a car and in Nairobi over 45% of people walk’, going on to explore whether African cities choose to walk, or do so as they have little choice. New York’s Institute for Transportation & Development Policy summed up Adam’s conclusion pretty well, saying ‘although that number is high, its because 63% of streets in Addis Ababa lack any pavements!’
Tuesday saw the publication of my interviews with Earth 2.0 co-founders Melissa Sterry and Tia Kansara. Sustainable future cities was the main topic of discussion, with African challenges addressed by both. Melissa suggested nature might provide some vital clues, saying ’Africa’s flora and fauna has pioneered solutions to every single challenge natural hazards pose, from heat waves to wildfires to dust storms to heavy precipitation. The answers are all there waiting to be found’. Tia offered a different take on the subject: ‘Over the period of man’s habitation of the Earth, climate change has necessitated a migration. Today Africa is no different. Certain parts are becoming denuded because of the lack of water. Unless this water can be piped and cleaned, then some areas will become unsustainable for mankind’.
Wednesday looked at African technological developments, namely the world’s largest solar power station and the potential of mobile innovations. On South Africa’s solar ambitions, Adriaan Bester commented that ‘as with other things in life, it’s a race between us and Australia – we should hear by year-end if it swings South Africa’s way’. Either being sceptical or future-thinking (I still can’t tell!), Twitter user Chrissiy asked ‘I wonder: can mobile payment systems solve infrastructure problems?’
Thursday saw the publication of Designing Cities with Children in Mind – a piece by guest contributors Amowi Phillips and Rachel Phillips from Ghana-based Mmofra Foundation. Amowi and Rachel presented their plans to transform two acres of undeveloped land ‘into a child-centric, play-friendly public centre where the entire community can re-imagine 21st century urban living’. Since featured on both Sustainable Cities Collective and TheCityFix, feedback has been resoundingly positive, with This Big City reader Megan calling the piece ‘inspirational and thought-provoking’ as well as asking for more posts as the project progresses. Well Megan, Amowi and Rachel are happy to oblige and we can look forward to project updates from them in the future.
Thursday’s post – Upgrading Slums a Low Priority in Kenyan Cities – was another addition to our Blast from the Past series, reblogging content from the archive of American not-for-profit Next American City. Looking at a UN-HABITAT project aiming to improve living conditions in Kenya’s slums, Gregg Scruggs noted that ‘while simple on paper, the process is excruciatingly complicated and difficult in practice’.
Regular This Big City contributor Theodore Brown was behind Friday’s post. Noting that ‘Africa, for reasons of history, place, and circumstance, has ports but lacks roads’, Theodore suggested that infrastructure investment could be one way to get Africa on the road to new economic opportunities.
We wrapped up another successful themed week on This Big City with two final posts, one exploring South Africa’s continued failure at implementing social housing policies, and another featuring a case study from a Zimbabwe-based youth theatre group. The complexity of implementing large scale urban housing solutions was noted in the former, with Mark Swilling saying that ‘it remains to be seen whether the South African Government will learn from past mistakes’. On the other end of the spectrum, the potential offered by small youth projects was raised in the latter, with Boyce Chaka saying ‘I teach literature and drama at a number of schools in the city of Bulawayo and the response has been great’.
And that brings Urban Innovations + Africa to a close. As ever, thanks for checking out the site, and a massive thanks for those who contributed content. Late October sees our second region-specific themed week, when Urban Asia Week goes live. If you’re interested in contributing, please do get in touch. Until then, keep checking out thisbigcity.net for more ideas for our urban world.