Join the #TalkingSpaces Twitter Discussions on Child-Friendly Public Spaces

  The city of Accra, Ghana, like others around Africa, is expanding at a rapid pace. The pressure on the ground in the metropolis to make way for urban development translates into the cutting down age-old trees, and the taking over of play grounds, parks, waterways, and other essential community resources.  City authorities’ plans and the competing, uncoordinated priorities of city dwellers, vendors,… …

For African cities, ‘tactical urbanism’ has its limits

It was a few years ago that the framework of tactical urbanism, a concept particularly promoted and popularized by U.S. planning design firm Street Plans Collaborative, gained traction, particularly in the United States and European contexts. The idea of tactical urbanism refers to locally led, low-cost and short-term built environment interventions aimed at improving local… …

Money in a slum: the logic of small gains

Dagna Rams is a doctoral candidate at the Department of Social and Political Science at the University of Lausanne, researching urban management and the politics and economies at the heart of the slum communities/informal settlements of Old Fadama and Agbogbloshie (Ghana). On a research outing around one of Accra’s informal settlements, my friend Abdallah (a slum activist… …

citizen urbanism

Money in a slum: the logic of small gains

Dagna Rams is a doctoral candidate at the Department of Social and Political Science at the University of Lausanne, researching urban management and the politics and economies at the heart of the slum communities/informal settlements of Old Fadama and Agbogbloshie (Ghana). On a research outing around one of Accra’s informal settlements, my friend Abdallah (a slum activist… …

Accra: Sensing the City Through Sound

In May, African Urbanism contributed to MIT’s Community Innovation Lab (CoLab Radio) “Listening to the City” series. The series includes sounds from cities such as a market in Mexico City, a struggling street market in Thessaloniki, Greece, and sounds of Los Angeles’ street economy. What do other cities sound like? Read descriptions of other cities included in the… …

Re-imagining Accra’s “public spaces”

What if we let go of the limiting idea of our public spaces as “city parks” and began exploring the entire range of social spaces that already exist in the city? This is the first in a series of posts.  Talented architects, designers and public space practitioners, green space enthusiasts, and everyday citizens dream of… …

learning

African Urbanism Conversations / 001 / Agbogbloshie

In this first African Urbanism Conversation, participants discuss the urban development, social, political, economic and environmental context of Agbogbloshie and Old Fadama, often typified as “Africa’s largest e-waste dump.” The conversation provides local context for a better understanding of what’s happening in Agbogbloshie and Old Fadama, and how the sites are intricately interlinked and connected to… …

Sustainable Cities conference bridges cultures, demonstrates shared experiences on public spaces

The challenges of traffic congestion, civic engagement and shrinking public spaces are key themes for cities in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region; these same challenges cut across West Africa’s cities, too. November 4-5, African Urbanism participated in the conference “Towards a Roadmap for Sustainable Cities in the MENA Region” in Beirut, Lebanon,… …

projects

Whose city is it, anyway?

The residents who form the backbone of Accra’s economy live in poor, high-density areas and are open to harassment by authorities. To develop into a fair and livable city, Accra will need to resolve this and other issues of inequality, says Victoria Okoye for UrbanAfrica.net. “Accra has always had a dual personality, right from its beginnings,”… …

Water issues in Lagos

Above: The branding of the Lagos Water Corporation, the state-level agency charged with overseeing the water operations and distribution for Lagos State. While I was in Lagos, I had the opportunity to speak with two key officials to learn more about the costing mechanism for water, the current and future plans of the Corporation, especially given the new public-… …

public space

Join the #TalkingSpaces Twitter Discussions on Child-Friendly Public Spaces

  The city of Accra, Ghana, like others around Africa, is expanding at a rapid pace. The pressure on the ground in the metropolis to make way for urban development translates into the cutting down age-old trees, and the taking over of play grounds, parks, waterways, and other essential community resources.  City authorities’ plans and the competing, uncoordinated priorities of city dwellers, vendors,… …

For African cities, ‘tactical urbanism’ has its limits

It was a few years ago that the framework of tactical urbanism, a concept particularly promoted and popularized by U.S. planning design firm Street Plans Collaborative, gained traction, particularly in the United States and European contexts. The idea of tactical urbanism refers to locally led, low-cost and short-term built environment interventions aimed at improving local… …

Foster’s World: Seeing Ga Mashie from Child Perspective

Foster Malm, 13, moves through one of Jamestown’s bustling markets with remarkable ease. Black iPhone covertly at the ready, he shoots off the hip, capturing unexpected market-goers moving through daily life. Although barely audible over the usual market place chatter, the camera shutter sounds off like rapid fire: close-ups of fresh tomatoes and onions, action… …

m o r e f r o m [ a f r u r b ]

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Accra’s June 3rd Floods: Looking Back to Move Forward

The Urban Platform of Ghana is a network of professionals and enthusiasts with interests in urban development in Ghana’s cities and good urban development practices globally. The Platform brings together knowledge, experience and contributions from more than 170 professionals with discussions, debates and information sharing.  In the wake of Accra’s deadly flooding disaster of June… …

Schools prepare for Independence Day, Ghana style [video]

As March 6th approaches, in schools all over the country, teachers and students prepare for the infamous Independence Day parades. A celebrated ritual of patriotism on national days, children file along roads, marching in line to music in synchronized steps. Here’s a short video of students in a school in Ghana’s Central Region preparing for… …

On clean drinking water in Lagos: Many options, few solutions

In Lagos, the systemic challenges facing urban water infrastructure affect each and everyone, from the wealthy oga in his corner office on Victoria Island to the impoverished beggar eking out his subsistence on a walkway in one of the city’s slums. While all are affected, the degree to which the pang of the water crisis affects each person is… …

In Accra, people and their bikes create a subculture

A 2010 World Bank study on Accra  estimated that only 1 to 4 percent of people in the city ride bicycles, whether to work, to school, to shopping activities, or for leisure. According to an earlier study by the Centre for Cycling Expertise, a Ghana-based, non-profit organization focused on promoting cycling and walking in cities, the… …

On the long, long life of a plastic bag

I stumbled upon this greatly thought-provoking video on the longevity of plastic shopping bags (“rubbers”), pollution and environmental impacts. The video, aptly titled Plastic Bag, is a short biography; for 18 minutes, viewers see plastic bags from their own perspective, and we follow one’s journey from its first use (just after conception) to…well, not death,… …

Colonial PR Films Provide Window into Africa’s More Recent Past

The UK’s Colonial Film Catalogue, a database of more than 6000 films (150 viewable online) provides an impressive, although subjective, window into the peoples living under British colonial rule. Although at times condescending, these videos find their value in providing a fantastic trip through time into life in these places.  Many of the films I have… …

Writing Humanity into Development: Telling the Story of the Personal Impacts, Not Just the Statistics

“…it seemed to me a shame that between the highly technical, acronym-heavy documents written within the world of development and the often saccharine self-descriptions of the church workers, there were so few people writing development stories from a human perspective. Stories that were not especially concerned with a man’s eternal soul or his statistical representation,… …

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Occupy Nigeria Protests: It’s About More Than Just A Fuel Subsidy

If it were only so simple as hundreds of thousands of people across Nigeria uniting to protest over the recent removal of the fuel subsidy! However, it’s about much more than that. That said, everywhere I look on the internet these days, I’m reading oversimplified, overgeneralized news statements such as “We are tracking the alarming… …

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Clean Team: Promoting Improved Sanitation and Waste Management in Kumasi, Ghana

A very interesting and informative short video on Clean Team, an initiative targeted in Kumasi, Ghana to address urban sanitation needs by providing household toilets to paying customers. The project, still in its pilot stage, is a collaboration between Unilever, Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), IDEO and the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly. Check out… …

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Street Behavior in Accra: What’s Going On?

Today, I learned secondhand of one episode of violence that took place on Accra’s roads, and was witness to another. The first violent event was an event recounted by a female acquaintance of mine, who was literally slapped in the face this morning by an aggressive pedestrian as she was in her car (her young… …

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Accra’s Creative Scene: Building a Locally-Driven Cultural Capital

It is an exciting moment to be in the city of Accra. Local artists and members of the Foundation for Contemporary Art, Ghana partnered with the Akumajaye community in Ga Mashie to paint a community seating area. For some time now, there has been a locally driven, independent creative movement manifesting itself through the arts,… …

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The Unsustainable Illegalization of Street Hawkers (and, What are Some Real Solutions?)

In September 2010, the Accra Metropolitan Assembly passed the “Street Hawking Bye-laws, 2011,” which outlined eight prohibitions pertaining to street vending (known locally as “hawking”), littering, soliciting alms, juvenile delinquency and promotional activities on roads and public spaces in Accra, with the bye-laws intended to go into effect on April 1 of this year. Nearly… …

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Gains from Tourism Demonstrate Key Industry Potential

In 2010, tourism in Ghana generated over $1.8 billion in revenues (6.2 percent of GDP) and created nearly 300,000 jobs within the country, according to the Tourism Minister Akua Sena Dansua. That said, while tourism is currently the fourth largest industry for foreign exchange earnings in Ghana, there are key areas for potential to strengthen… …

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Afternoon at Jamestown Pier

Jamestown, one of Accra’s oldest districts and the indigenous home to the Ga people, is one of the city’s most densely culturally and historically rich areas. Traditionally a fishing community, this economic activity continues to play a central role in the livelihood of many of the community. A Saturday excursion to the Jamestown pier, from… …

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“So-Called Low-Cost Housing”

Just came across some video clips of the Belgian/French film C’est arrive près de chez vous/It happened in your neighborhood (Man Bites Dog). In the clip below, Benoît, the main character, discusses the aesthetic problems surrounding “so-called low-cost housing,” and how the design contributes to negative community characteristics, including violence. His question: “How can you… …

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Shea Butter Production Helps Drive Community Development and Ecotourism in Mole, Ghana

[This article was originally written by the author for The Travel Word, a blog on local travel and ecotourism initiatives.] Mole National Park, located in Northern Ghana, is a remarkable natural landscape. This grand expanse of nature is the country’s largest national park and its largest protected ecosystem. As a wildlife reserve, it is refuge… …

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Readings on African Cities

Although I still have much to learn (!), I would argue that there are few texts that successfully document, describe and discuss African cities’ development from a general, as well as specific, perspective. Excited to say I recently came across the African Cities Reader, “a biennial publication that brings together contributors from across Africa and… …

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Colonial Lagos: When It Was a Small Town

1929. A time when Lagos was only a “town”… Lagos Town street life. Source: UK National Archives “Lagos Town” (June 1929). Source: UK National Archives A time when urban sprawl had not yet become a pervasive problems, and a settlement’s borders were defined by vast amounts of green space… Nigeria, but date and location unknown.… …

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On E-Waste (Environmental Waste) in Ghana

The upcoming film CIRCUIT CITY is about life + work in one of the world’s largest electronic waste dumps, with high tech toxic trash causing horrendous pollution in Ghana. It is the story of China, a young farmer from northern Ghana who lands in Accra scavenging toxic waste for copper, brass, and aluminum to sell.… …

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Art in the City: Chale Wote Street Art Festival in Jamestown, Accra

This past weekend, a series of arts organizations in Accra sponsored the Chale Wote Street Art Festival, a one-day event to showcase local art and creativity of the city of Accra’s resident artists. The event, which took place in the historic location of Jamestown, consisted of a series of art events and spaces at historic… …

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Day-off Destination: Kokrobite Beach

Thirty kilometres (20 miles) outside of Accra is Kokrobite Beach, a stretch of beach dotted with small resorts and plenty of white, beautiful sand. I tagged along with a friend whose completing his Masters research on the role of the tourism industry in local economic development. While he was doing his research, I enjoyed the… …

The Tro-Tro – An Essential Mode of Transport in Accra, Ghana

This article was originally published for the Millennium Cities Initiative blog, Reports from the Field. Researching urban transport in Accra, Ghana, this summer on behalf of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly and the Millennium Cities Initiative, I learned a lot about the city’s most well-known, loved, hated, but essential modes of transport. Tro-tros, as they are… …

Escape to Lomé: Weekend in Togo

This (unfortunately, very short) adventure into this Francophone country was a beautiful experience, if only to consider the melange of urban design influencs from a Francophone African perspective. State-of-the-art architecture in central Lomé. In terms of urban design, the city of Lomé is so interesting in the ways it combines (or fails to combine) the… …

Government plans rhino and giraffe-shaped cities for 2025

The government of Sudan is set to re-design two of its cities from scratch in the shape of animals – a rhino and a giraffe – I interpret this as an urban economic development strategy (and a branding strategy as well). The project should take some 20 years and cost at least $10 million and… …

Tourist in the City: Accra (in Pictures)

Accra is a growing, dynamic and increasingly diverse city, and the wealth of excellent places to see, spend free time and explore are testimony to that. In addition, these all make the city incredibly attractive to foreigners such as myself, and great spots to learn more about the city — and the country’s history and… …

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wiki wiki wiki!

So I just stumbled across this fabulous resource – a wiki on water issues in Sub-Saharan African countries, can you imagine! The IWA Water Wiki is a “An information resource and hub for the global water community.” They have in-depth water and sanitation analyses on cities like…Lagos, Nigeria; Accra, Ghana; Nairobi, Kenya; Dakar, Senegal, etc. … …

A Message to MTN

MTN, you have great advertisements and commercials (England v. Germany commercial for example), but sometimes the phone service is a bit lacking. Perhaps you should take some money from your advertising budget and send it over to your communications infrastructure section…I’m sick of my text messages not going through and dropped calls! …

Recycling: Good for the Environment, not in Nigerian Politics.

Ibrahim Babangida, one of Nigeria’s most notorious presidents (known for coming to power through a bloodless coup, then anulling the free and fair election results which would have brought M. K. Abiola into office, then had him put in prison), has declared publicly that he’ll be running for President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,… …

The Tro-Tro – An Essential Mode of Transport in Accra, Ghana

by

This article was originally published for the Millennium Cities Initiative blog, Reports from the Field. Researching urban transport in Accra, Ghana, this summer on behalf of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly and the Millennium Cities Initiative, I learned a lot about the city’s most well-known, loved, hated, but essential modes of transport. Tro-tros, as they are…

Escape to Lomé: Weekend in Togo

by

This (unfortunately, very short) adventure into this Francophone country was a beautiful experience, if only to consider the melange of urban design influencs from a Francophone African perspective. State-of-the-art architecture in central Lomé. In terms of urban design, the city of Lomé is so interesting in the ways it combines (or fails to combine) the…

Government plans rhino and giraffe-shaped cities for 2025

by

The government of Sudan is set to re-design two of its cities from scratch in the shape of animals – a rhino and a giraffe – I interpret this as an urban economic development strategy (and a branding strategy as well). The project should take some 20 years and cost at least $10 million and…

Tourist in the City: Accra (in Pictures)

by

Accra is a growing, dynamic and increasingly diverse city, and the wealth of excellent places to see, spend free time and explore are testimony to that. In addition, these all make the city incredibly attractive to foreigners such as myself, and great spots to learn more about the city — and the country’s history and…

wiki wiki wiki!

by

So I just stumbled across this fabulous resource – a wiki on water issues in Sub-Saharan African countries, can you imagine! The IWA Water Wiki is a “An information resource and hub for the global water community.” They have in-depth water and sanitation analyses on cities like…Lagos, Nigeria; Accra, Ghana; Nairobi, Kenya; Dakar, Senegal, etc. …

The City of Accra gets a Logo: New Face, New Attitude?

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It’s official, the Mayor of Ghana, Dr. Alfred Vanderpuije, in collaboration with the Accra Metro Assembly has unveiled the city’s new logo: According to the Adom Online article linked above, the logo symbolizes the “engagement of citizens towards a new city philosophy that includes making Accra a better city forever.” This is part of the…

Celebrating Ghana’s Win, Accra-style

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Ghana recently played (and defeated) the United States 2-1 to progress through the semifinals for the FIFA World Cup, currently taking place in South Africa. I rooted for Ghana, of course! (As they say, “when in Rome, do as Romans do,” right?) Photos below show some of the after-win celebrations in the streets of Accra…

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