Uncovering futures and possibilities for our African cities
Rashiq Fataar, CEO of Our Future Cities, interviews leading designers, urbanists and creatives launching creative projects putting a spotlight on emerging practises and future focussed interventions across the African continent.
“it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a diverse community to make a city thrive”. - Livingstone Mukasa
Doreen Adengo, Principle of Adengo Architecture, presented her research project Unit 15(x) Radical Landscapes (with students from the University of Johannesburg) which explores the threat to Kampala’s wetlands as a result of unplanned urban expansion. Adengo’s foray into the future, explained that wetlands provide an essential purpose by controlling floods, helping to conserve biodiversity and filter runoff water thereby removing pollutants. She also noted the pressure that exists to use the land for development and how crucial building awareness with designers is to be inclusive of the need for environmental preservation.
Adengo also showed the African Mobilities (3x3) project that celebrates the Kitenge fabric trade and utilizes the smaller spaces in the market through the creation of 3x3 meter shop units that connect Congolese refugees to the global fashion industry. Adengo also pointed out how important mapping of the wetlands areas is in future protection of these areas.
“It is important to have multidisciplinary collaborations. As architects, we are also storytellers and I realized the importance of using videos” - Doreen Adengo
Braima Koroma spoke to the potential for future governance models in African cities and towns as a result of the shifting powers and contexts. Speaking on the potential for devolution of powers from states to cities Koroma made it clear that the devolution agenda will not only be an event but will take some time. He explained that it would require: (i) continuous commitment from those in power and their support(ii) a gradual process (iii)the starting point has to be based on a shared vision and shared objectives and (iv) it must not only be supported by the government - but citizens also have a role to play. Koroma believes that these are key aspects that will enable African cities and towns to shift the relevant set of reforms and policies for an effective devolution process.
“Devolution is very unique across different countries… in the Kenyan institutions it happens at a country level as well: there is a national commitment to a commission review process that allows some of these processes to function much more effectively.” - Braima Koroma
Koroma pointed to Freetown’s successful review of their property tax law which increased the city’s revenue fivefold, helping to fund critical local services for residents and expand the local powers to deliver to “make things happen”.
Rudi Kriel explored a future in which the private sector may begin to participate in the operation of the rail system in Cape Town using the Cape Town Southern Line as a case study. Presenting his masters thesis from Stellenbosch University titled Revitalizing Rail: The case of public-private partnerships, Kriel stated that despite his findings, attracting the private sector to participate in any of the rail lines in Cape Town would be a challenge and it present a big business risk due to the threat of vandalism. However, rail is a feasible option for private vehicle users due the public transport market in the Southern suburbs being relatively small and if improvements in operating standards from private sector participation is done then the Southern line is economically feasible.
“If you plan privatisation of rail well enough and take into consideration climate and environment of your particular city and don’t just copy what other cities have done, it can be viable” - Rudi Kriel
Sindile Mavundla, cycling advocate and director of Khaltsha Cycles transported us to the future of Durban’s cycling network based on cycling more than 150km across nine days around the city. The project in collaboration with the TUMI initiative was aimed at exploring the inequalities experienced by cyclists through Durban North, Athlone, Essenwood, Briardene and Kwamashu areas and the potential to link cycling routes and infrastructure to the City’s planned BRT infrastructure. Mavundla’s main learning for the future, was not to only focus on hard infrastructure but to understand that people want and need to learn how to ride a bicycle but want to do so affordably and safely. Mavundla mentioned the bike bus model as a good starting point in getting people comfortable by riding safely in groups, making bike-bus routes and times and linking this to and from schools. Mavundla expressed the need for city governments to urgently get on board to improve cycling culture and infrastructure.
“Cycling with other people and creating a community - that’s what people actually want, a community of cyclists”
As part of the discussion moderated by Livingstone Mukasa, several learnings emerged, some of which included: the need for awareness to improve urban design and architecture around environmentally sensitive locations, the need for political commitment to new governance models of cities to ensure they become more efficient and functional, the importance of rail and not seeking to generate profits from public transport systems and the need to facilitate future communities around cycling that is as important delivering non-motorised transport infrastructure.
- Braima Koroma, Director of Research and Training at the Sierra Leone Urban Research Unit, will discuss what the possibilities are for the devolution in governance in Africa.
- Rudi Kriel, Transport Economist at GoMetro, will unpack the specific case of the devolution of transport and rail in Cape Town, South Africa.
- Sindile Mavundla, director of Khaltsha Cycles, will share the role of mobility start-ups in South Africa and whether cycling the country could inform better walking & cycling infrastructure.
- Doreen Adengo, principal architect of Adengo Architecture in Uganda, will showcase an urban mobilities project and speak about how movement impacts the future of public space.
- Livingstone Mukasa, principal of Mahali, a collaborative design studio focused on cultural and contextual architectural engagement, will act as provocateur in the conversation.