Projects funded in 2018

These 11 projects are being supported as part of the second LIRA 2030 Africa call on Advancing the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 11 on cities in Africa.

If you are interested in contacting any of the projects, please e-mail

Integration of housing and health policies for inclusive, sustainable African cities

A large portion of African urban inhabitants reside in informal settlements, notorious for their poor living conditions and public health challenges. For Africa to meet the Sustainable Development Goal 11 which seeks to build resilient and sustainable cities and, by association goal 3, which aims to improve health and well-being, there needs to be a reinvention of human settlement development planning processes within African cities. Using Cape Town, South Africa and Douala, Cameroon as city case studies, this study uses transdisciplinary partnerships with academic and non-academic stakeholders within each city to conduct research over two phases. Phase one explores existing policies and governance structures of relevance in Cape Town and Douala through desktop research and in-depth interviews with government officials to identify synergies and collaboration opportunities between the housing and health government sectors. Using stakeholder engagement, phase two investigates suitable approaches to integrating available quantitative data across government sectors to inform future evaluation of the health impact of housing interventions for the urban poor within Cape Town and Douala. This study will provide a practical health and housing integrated collaboration model to improve integrated urban governance for the planning of African cities, and contribute towards efforts to address the conundrum of safe, adequate, and health-promoting housing for growing urban poor populations.

Expertise represented in the project: Public Health, Health geography/urban health, Urban planning, Demography

Principal Investigator: Tolu Oni, University of Cape Town, South Africa

Countries involved in project: South Africa, Cameroon

Management of shared sanitation facilities in informal settlements of Kisumu, Kenya and Kumasi, Ghana

Cities in Africa are experiencing an unprecedented growth in their urban population with a large portion of these urban residents dwelling in informal settlements. One major challenge with these settlements is the lack of sanitation facilities, and many residents opt to share the few facilities that are available. Sharing provides access to many who lack sanitation facilities. However, these shared facilities are often poorly maintained and soiled with excreta thereby hindering access and posing a health risk to users and the general population. This project will adopt a trans-disciplinary approach to co-design and implement strategies that may lead to improved and sustainable management of shared sanitation in informal settlements. The project will be conducted in Kisumu in Kenya and Kumasi in Ghana; two African countries that have a large proportion of their population depending on shared sanitation. Various stakeholders including the local government, academia, the private sector, and community members will be involved to co-design management strategies that will be tested and implemented in selected compounds. It is hoped that the project will identify strategies that can be adopted in informal settlements in the two countries, and in other African countries, thereby contributing to safe and inclusive human settlements in African cities. The identified strategies will also influence decisions, the development of policies, and allocation of resources at the national and international level, with countries adopting some acceptable level of quality of shared sanitation facilities.Principal InvestigatorCountries involved in project

Principal Investigator: Simiyu Sheillah, Great Lakes University of Kisumu, Kenya

Countries involved in project: Kenya, Ghana

Realising the potential of urban density to create more prosperous and liveable informal settlements in Africa

Rapid urbanisation and crowding into informal settlements has led to haphazard development of the built environment with poor housing, social amenities and exposure to many environmental and health risks. Yet density, if managed effectively, can provide a public good that enhances economic productivity and reduces the cost of service provision. Research suggests that people living in close proximity foster social innovation, entrepreneurial dynamism, economic specialisation and growth. Density may act as an asset for efficient service provision by economising on land, recycling materials, limiting transport costs and restraining energy consumption. The project explores different ways of upgrading dense informal settlements in order to build upwards rather than outwards. This involves a two-pronged approach: the first explores how to free up space for the holistic development of informal settlements through land readjustment, promoting tenure security, access to finance and conditions for multi-story developments. The second explores the best use of space in creating affordable housing whilst targeting social and economic goals such as the construction of schools, health facilities, workshops for small enterprises and retail facilities. This requires appropriate regulation of building activity and informal businesses as well as fostering participatory governance. The project aims to find practical options for reshaping the physical environment of informal settlements through densification in ways which enhance the livelihoods of communities.

Expertise represented in the project: Urban Economic Development, Urban Planning, Development studies, Land Use Planning, Urban and Local Governance; Urban Design; Architecture, Green building & infrastructure design, Microfinance, Community Dialogue.

Principal Investigator: Justin Visagie, Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa

Countries involved in project: South Africa, Angola

Co-creating Localised Norms on Sustainable Energy in Cities in Kenya and Uganda (LoNSEC)

Within the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), urban planning that is linked to sustainable energy can offer possibilities for confronting development challenges that cut across SDG 7 (access to affordable and clean energy), SDG 11 (make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable), SDG 13 (resilient climate action) and SDG 5 (gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls). But this not only calls for knowledge on the relational nature of SDG goals and targets, but also understanding the interlinkages within the normative structure of SDGs and the alternative pathways used at local scale to adapt SDG norms in initiatives that seek sustainable energy transitions in cities.

The project aim is to co-generate knowledge on the interplay between the key norms that underlie SDG 5 (equal opportunity), SDG 11 (inclusivity), SDG 7 (accessibility) and SDG 13 (resilience) in the context of sustainable energy in cities. This will be attained through cross-disciplinary action research that deepens dialogue and facilitates collective learning about the alternative interpretations of inclusivity, equal opportunity, resilience and accessibility in waste to energy projects at neigbourhood scale. The targeted locations are Bwaise III parish (Kampala city-Uganda) and Soweto-East Kibera (Nairobi city county-Kenya). These urban informal settlements are a host of low-income groups that take the initiative to extract and add value to materials from the waste stream, through the use of organic waste for nutrient recovery and production of energy briquettes. The pilot projects in Bwaise and Kibera will act as boundary platforms for interfacing community representatives with academics and policy actors, to characterise and convey the interconnections, trade-offs and synergies between inclusivity, equal opportunity, resilience and accessibility to sustainable energy using visual communication methods.

Expertise represented in the project: Urban Sociology, Environment Planning, Geography, Urban Livelihoods and Informality, Fine Art, Community studies, Urban Development and Housing, Spatial planning.

Principal Investigator: Buyana Kareem Makerere University, Uganda

Countries involved in the project: Uganda, Kenya

Standardising City-Level Data-Gathering towards Achieving Sustainable Development Goal 11 in Africa (SCiLeD)

Urban challenges confronting African cities include water shortages, insecurity, inadequate housing, unemployment, poor sanitation, congestion and lack of participation which are intensified by inequality, poverty and intensity of slum development. Meanwhile, the capability of governments to tackle these urban challenges is being diminished by rapid population growth, urbanisation and diminishing revenues. Data on slum populations including demographics, economy, mobility, and access to urban basic services on smaller geographies like the cities, communities and by gender and vulnerable groups are required to make better decisions. Data on urban trends and patterns are being created by several agencies with different priorities and procedures which often limit data availability, accuracy, coverage, comparability, and openness. Moreover, these data are at the national and not city or community levels which mask the true situation at the smaller geographies. To understand the underlying distributions, patterns, trends or disparities inherent in African cities, there is need to break down aggregated data into smaller geographies which underscores standardising city-level data-gathering towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)11 using two case study cities – Lagos (Nigeria) and Accra (Ghana). This will entail harmonisation of priorities and procedures; localisation of SDG 11 targets and indicators; examination of data requirements; small area estimation and urban services mapping; bringing together diverse data communities to embrace diverse range of data sources, tools, and innovative technologies; measurements of urban data sets, implementation and monitoring; and creating opportunities to enhance participation. By co-creating, co-collecting, co-managing and co-sharing data will lead to better decision-making, policies and planning for sustainable urban governance.

Expertise represented in the project: Development Geography, Urban & Regional Planning, Environment, Water and Sanitation, Human Geography, Remote Sensing and GIS, Law and Advocacy, Mapping and Profiling, Profiling Data, Statistics, Socioeconomic Statistics, Slum Profiling, Advocacy & Community Engagement, Transport Planning, Geospatial simulation.

Principal Investigator: Peter Elias, University of Lagos, Nigeria

Countries involved in the project: Nigeria, Ghana

Bridging Decentralized Energy Planning with Neighbourhood-level Innovations in Cities of Africa: Case Studies from Ghana and South Africa

Cities across Africa are undergoing an urban energy transition in a bid to address the environmental challenges associated with fast-paced urbanization and increasing carbon emissions, while contributing to the implementation of Goal 7 and 11 of the 2030 Agenda. This urban energy transition is accompanied by constant and continuing pressure on national and local governments to develop planning frameworks and institutional capacities that respond to the multiple demands associated with creating inclusive and pro-poor energy systems. In response to these challenges, national governments are working with municipal authorities to invest in decentralized energy planning, which is expected to lead to effective deployment of alternate energy technologies within underprivileged communities at the least-cost to the economy and environment. Faced with the reality of having the least opportunity to engage with and influence the policies and decision-making structures that govern decentralized energy planning, the urban poor are searching for practical solutions that can break the barriers to sustainable access and use of alternative energy while demonstrating potential to obtain socially inclusive and environmentally friendly urban energy systems.

Expertise represented in the project: Development Economics, Social Innovation, Renewable Energy, Social Enterprise and Information Systems, Governance, Urban Transitions and Sustainability.

Principal Investigator: Phumlani Stanley Nkontwana, Stellenbosch University, South Africa

Countries involved in project: South Africa, Ghana

Community led upgrading of informal settlements in cities in Namibia and Zambia

On the periphery of most African cities informal settlements are incrementally developing. These informal solutions are to account for the lack of affordable land and housing provided by local authorities. However, these conditions pose health and safety risks to community members. As a solution, local municipalities have begun upgrade programmes of informal settlements through enumeration and service provision. However, this is a top-down approach disregarding the real needs of communities. Therefore, the research aims to explore the process of community led upgrade of informal settlements. This will be done by understanding informal settlement upgrade programmes from the perspective of all stakeholders, with an emphasis on community member’s views. Secondly, by analysing existing upgrade programmes within the three identified cities of Lusaka, Windhoek and Gobabis. From the analysed data, methods and tools will be developed to provide communities with the means to conduct sustainable upgrade projects. Apart from investigating a bottom-up approach to empower communities, they are also provided with a platform to tell their stories by creating a visual narrative of informal settlements and the opportunities that lies within.

Expertise represented in the project: Architecture and Spatial production, Housing and Urbanism, Town planning, Informal settlement upgrading, Disaster Risk Resilience, Urban Geography, Community Engagement, Evidence-based Advocacy, Urban Development, Public Policy

Principal Investigator: Madelein Stoffberg, Namibia University of Science and Technology, Namibia

Countries involved in project: Namibia, Zambia

Green Spaces and Repurposing Waste: Building Capacities for Resilience in Urban and Periurban West Africa

Inappropriate waste disposal and poor waste management cause pollution, inhibit storm water drainage, aggravate floods, and increase disease risk. Recycled waste can produce irrigation water, compost, and green fuel. By enhancing liquid and solid waste recycling for urban and periurban agriculture (e.g. market gardens, plant nurseries), green urban spaces (e.g. forests, parks, gardens), and green energy (biogas) in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, and Tamale, Ghana, this two-year research for development project reinforces urban and periurban socio-ecosystem resilience, thus contributing to SDG 11.

Using proactive and participatory approaches, the project combines expertise from academic institutions and non-academic organizations, including municipal assemblies, private enterprises, and associations of waste collectors, market gardeners, and livestock farmers to investigate how to better collect, manage, and repurpose organic liquid and solid waste to benefit urban and periurban agriculture and green urban spaces, and generate biogas for urban and periurban sustainable development. Through GIS (participatory mapping approaches), ethnographic tools (interviews, participation-observation, mapping, value webs), socio-economics (cost benefit analysis), agronomics (experimental plots), and integrated modelling, data will be incorporated into computer-based scenarios for stakeholder discussions and training activities. The project will develop and facilitate multi-stakeholder platforms for knowledge production and integration on proper, sustainable waste disposal and recycling processes and infrastructure, urban and periurban agriculture and green urban spaces for cleaner, more resilient urban and periurban communities.

Expertise represented in the project: Agricultural Economy, Ecology, Agronomy, Biology, Complex Modelling, Anthropology, Soil and Water Engineering, Solid Waste Management and Environmental Sanitation, Renewable energy engineering,  Agroforestry, Tree Nursery, Livestock Farming.

Principal Investigator: Safiétou Sanfo, WASCAL, Burkina Faso

Countries involved in project: Burkina Faso, Ghana

Transforming southern African cities in a changing climate

Download: Pathways to transformative climate adaptation in southern African cities

Failing to address climate change effectively would seriously undermine efforts to meet the targets of SDG 11: making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. In African cities, decision-makers are faced with the challenges of addressing the severe socio-economic inequalities stemming from a colonial history that still affect the vast majority of citizens. At the same time, they need to work towards achieving economic growth, social development and environmental management that matches a global standard. When it comes to making decisions for the future of African cities, the pressures and priorities resulting from decades of ‘underdevelopment’, associated with high levels of unemployment, poor public service provision and a large infrastructure deficit, often do not leave much political attention, technical capacity and resources for adapting to climate change. Further, current traditional, incremental adaptation agendas often take a narrow view of tackling climate risks and impacts within the current state of the socio-ecological system, not questioning the unsustainable or unjust aspects of this system. Transformational adaptation offers an alternative approach to current incremental adaptation strategies. By linking the important issues of justice, equality and inclusivity with the climate change agenda, and dealing with the root causes of societal vulnerabilities, transformational adaptation has the potential to contribute to many of the SDGs. Using Durban (South Africa) and Harare (Zimbabwe) as cases, the project will contribute to better understanding the potential for transformational pathways through transdisciplinary processes with stakeholders from these cities. Considering both cities are faced with the challenge of managing water under changing climate conditions, water service provision will be used as a case study climate/development risk. An approach to learning that fosters transformative processes will also be developed through the proposed research.

Expertise represented in the project: Urban resilience, Development studies, Environmental Anthropology, Collaborative Ethnography, Urban Climate Adaptation, Human Geography, Wetlands Management, Environmental Management.

Principal Investigator: Alice McClure, University of Cape Town, South Africa

Countries involved in project: South Africa, Zimbabwe

Integrating sustainable water and sanitation solutions to create safer, more inclusive and climate resilient cities

In Dar es Salaam, informal settlements accounts for over 70%. They are characterized by absence of sewer networks and lack of sustainable waste water management systems which often led to frequent cholera outbreaks and diarrheal diseases. In response, BORDA Africa, has been constructing DEWATS plants to address the aforementioned changes and other health related risks. There have been several challenges from the beneficiaries before, during and after the construction of these treatment plants (DEWATS), mostly due to community’s poor knowledge of the technology, lack of their involvement in the project implementation, and unreliable support from the government agencies and other stakeholders in enabling the acceptability of the technology. As the populations of these slums continue to rise, achieving universal sanitation in Dar es Salaam is as urgent as ever. Improving the acceptability of the DEWATS technology to the community (es) can only be possible by the application of new knowledge and approaches to strengthen strategies and policies towards adequate and equitable sanitation. The project aims to understand and manage the social construction within community (es) that can be engaged in co-designing sanitation solutions in informal settlements.

Expertise represented in the project: Health and Life Science; International Health Management, Environmental Engineering, Water & Sanitation, and Feacal sludge management;  Molecular Microbiology, Water & Sanitation, Human Geography, Humanitarian Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Water resources technology & management, Waste Water Management

Principle Investigator: Lwetoijera Dickson Wilson, Ifakara Health Institute, Tanzania

Countries involved in project: Tanzania, South Africa

Co-producing urban knowledge in Angola and Mozambique through community-led data collection: towards meeting SDG 11

This project aims to generate data on the indicators of the urban SDG in Angola and Mozambique and use this data to inform more inclusive, sustainable and participatory urban planning and policymaking. The research will take place in the capital cities of Luanda and Maputo in three selected peri-urban settlements in each city. The research process is designed to be trans-disciplinary, with members of the main research team representing different academic and professional research disciplines while local research teams will also include community members and local authority representatives. The research process will be community-led, include the collection of both quantitative and qualitative data through a mix of methods and explore the interlinkages between the urban, gender and climate action SDG.

Georeferenced maps, models and reports based on the collected data and the research method employed will be shared and discussed amongst relevant urban stakeholders within and between the two cities in a series of workshops and meetings. In doing so, the project aims to contribute to: the establishment of a methodology for the implementation and monitoring of the SDGs; a baseline for the formulation of new or the implementation of existing urban policies; and the creation and strengthening of mechanisms of local knowledge (co-)production and experience sharing amongst different actors and stakeholders within as well as between the cities of Luanda and Maputo.

Expertise represented in the project: Political and urban sociology, GIS, Geography, migration, gender, climate change, urban informality and urban food security

Principal Investigator: Sylvia Croese, University of Cape Town, South Africa

Countries involved in project: Angola, Mozambique

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