Workshops Africa's urban future

Within the rapidly changing political economic terrain of Africa’s cities concerns around urban inclusiveness highlighted by events such as the Arab spring and service delivery and student protests in South Africa remain. They raise the challenge of how to address the wide income disparities in African cities, and the political inclusion of marginal groups such as women, youth and ethnic minorities. Despite the burgeoning sectors, African city residents still struggle with the basics, such as decent housing, access to clean water and safe sanitation and energy. Financing for these basic infrastructural requirements remains a challenge. As does for commuter transport infrastructure in cities. While there has been significant effort to improve services in cities, the general absence of urban welfare has meant that the green peripheries of the city and the countryside remain crucial for the livelihood of the residents of African cities. What this means, is that while Africa is rapidly urbanizing, land, a key resource from which food, water and energy is sourced, remains important for the residents of African cities thus entangling climate change dynamics with urbanisation. Other infrastructural sectors that make cities work like communication are being served by mobile technologies, which have networked Africa’s urban residents globally and opened up trade opportunities, and driven political representation for its residents outside traditional media. On the other hand, Urban productivity and job creation are today other central areas of concern. Economic growth alone is not necessarily leading to development in many of the African countries. New bold solutions linking the desired economic performance to the expansion of employment will contribute to poverty reduction and expectedly to improved opportunities for all. Simultaneously, new digital economies around finance, health and social media are shaping the African urban environment in ways whose implications are to be fully understood, namely in what regards the urban economies.

Workshop themes and questions for workshop discussions

1. Urban political economic and social inclusion and stability (11:00-12:30)

  • What are the political economic and social possibilities required to narrow the gap between rich and poor, and other marginalised social groups in Africa’s cities?
  • What initiatives are creating resilient urban communitas in African cities? And in what ways can lessons from these be shared with less stable urban regions?
  • What are the contemporary gendered dynamics of African cities and in what ways are they shaping African urban life?
  • How are the dominant and emergent livelihoods in Africa’s cities?
  • What modes of cooperation between the Nordic countries and their urban experiences can be shared with Africa’s?

2. Urban physical and social infrastructural needs and financing (11:00-12:30)

  • What are the urban infrastructural and respective financing challenges Africa’s cities face?
  • What specific concerns are more relevant today regarding housing, regarding water, sanitation and energy services and systems?
  • What are African residents doing to meet these challenges? What are the opportunities in partnering to help meet them?

3. Climate change and urbanisation (14:15-15:45)

  • What has been the impact of African’s urbanisation on the ecological system?
  • How is climate change affecting urban food production and supply?
  • How has it affected urban water, energy supply and systems?
  • How is it affecting urban settlement patterns for various urban residents?

4. Urban productivity and job creation (14:15-15:45)

  • What are the main opportunities and constraints regarding job creation?
  • How are cities managing their productivity potentials and maximizing the opportunities for the poor and vulnerable?
  • Digital economy and urban jobs: How is the digital economy transforming jobs and the urban economy?
  • Digital economy and urban service provision: How are innovations in mobile health and education apps and technologies shaping how Africans are accessing health and educational services? What are the drawbacks and opportunities?

Organisation and rationale

The workshops are academic/policy stakeholders’ events in which participants, as experts and implementers, analyse the possibilities and potentials for Finland-Africa cooperation.

Each workshop has the duration of 90 minutes. Each session will begin with a short presentation (about 15 minutes) of background information prepared by the chair(s), followed by discussions based on a provided matrix, leading to conclusions agreed upon by the groups. Rapporteurs are expected to summarise the conclusions for each of the questions formulated in the matrix. These reports will afterwards be used by to prepare a policy-oriented publication.

As a result, each workshop group will contribute with conclusions, recommendations and ideas to a policy paper / publication compiling all results of the event. This publication is expected to contribute to both the academic policy oriented work and to the work of a varied range of policy makers, stakeholders and implementers.


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