Design thinking is the best alternative for building smarter cities in Africa

Design thinking is the best alternative for building smarter cities in africa

Cities are better built when there are combined efforts of different individuals and organizations, each contributing their energy and skills in different ways but with the same focus or objective. A city built by a “clique” of a few individuals will not function for all. A city is a wholesome unit with many parts, each of which works for the better good of the entire piece. In most of Sub Saharan Africa, cities are built by technocrats who sit in office and churn out policies that are supposed to be pushed down for the population to adopt. What is the end result? Many policies that are not in sync with the masses.

Our planning capabilities as growing nations is limited. We complain more about limited resources but we forget that the most important aspects of the city may not even require money. For instance, programmes on greening the city may not cost as much money, yet most of our cities are not green. A little effort in mobilizing citizens in embracing gearing campaigns would go a long way in changing the lives of the residents. The most important part is to ensure that people understand the concept and support it. Most African cities are lucky that they are located in the tropics where natural greenery is common and God given. This however will not be a permanent status quo. The world is warming up at a very fast rate. The main reason for global warming is the increasing population that cannot find marching resources for sustenance. Collaborative efforts within ourselves as a city and from outside our countries will help us find better solutions to build our cities in a more sustainable way.

As a country, Uganda needs to adopt design thinking in order to sensitize the masses about the towns and cities we desire. The masses need not know all the finer details about city building. But they have a right to know the basics about the future we want to take them to. At URSSI we take sympathy with technical persons at KCCA because of the immense pressure they face in trying to pull the city in one direction which they are convince is the right one. Unfortunately they use too much energy even when they are doing the right thing. Why is this so? Because the people have been conditioned to believe that the city authorities are not working in the favour of the masses. This is a dangerous trend. City authorities will therefore take more time in projects that would otherwise be easy to implement. People are not stupid. They know when you are working in their favour. The difference is that sometimes we think we are working in the best interest of the citizens when in actual sense we are not because they are not aware that we are working for them. No one wants to benefit from an undertaking when they are not very sure of how it was done. “If something is for my own good, then explain to me why you are doing it for me and how I will benefit”.

This is a common concept which is most abused by authorities. So the way forward is to come down to our people in a simple way to explain where we are going with them and what is in for them to benefit in the long run. We must engage and adopt design thinking as a way of designing cities if the cities are going to work for the people for whom they are created.  Everyone knows what is good for them. Even when they are not aware, maybe it’s because they understand it in a different way. It is up to us the leaders to refocus the people on realizing that the cities we are building are in their own interest. How can we do this? URSSI will in the coming days explain how we need to harness this opportunity by optimally utilizing all available space to reach out to the public. As an organization, we are committed to ensuring that citizens are aware about the cities they need and the cities we are building for them. The convergence of ideas is what has been missing for a long time and it’s high time we close the gap by working together with the common urban dwellers to better their condition and ultimately our entire cities. This we are confident is possible. It is all about the conviction and the good will to do it.