Photo © Beacon Mbiba, 2014

Photo © Beacon Mbiba, 2014

On 16-18 December 2014, Dr Beacon Mbiba from Oxford Brookes University, participated as an expert at a United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) organised Expert Group meeting on “Optimising Africa’s Urbanisation Potential for Structural Transformation” in Addis Abba, Ethiopia. Twenty international experts, policy makers and practitioners took part in the event to examine whether African’s current rapid urbanisation can be the moment for the continent’s long-term structural transformation.

In the short term, built environment and social scientists have a leading role to play in delivery and management new infrastructure and services to support diverse needs and businesses emerging in rapidly growing cities. The Expert Group meeting addressed some of the complex questions facing urbanising Africa, such as:
  • What kinds of production pathways are possible and desirable for urban Africa?
  • How should cities relate to nature, to the extraction of resources and management of wastes?
  • What kind of social relations and everyday life should be fostered in the urban environments?
  • What role is technology playing in the transformation of African societies?

Africa’s diverse communities, ecologies, history, cultural and political economies mean that there is no single pathway for all countries – thus creating an exciting environment for policy makers, researchers and entrepreneurs alike.

Dr Mbiba is a Senior Lecturer in Urban Policy and International Development and Program Leader for Urban Planning in Developing and Transitional Regions. Following the meeting, he conducted city site visits and held discussions with city officials and local academics to gather information useful for future teaching and collaborative research projects.