Urban Ingenuity Series: Reflecting on Challenges and Opportunities

The world’s cities are experiencing massive population growth. Much of the growth forecasted for the next 20 years will occur in Africa, and mainly in informal settlements and slums – which are often characterized by a lack of services such as water, electricity, and sanitation.

Meeting the escalating demand for these services is challenging enough, but growing cities must also have the foresight to simultaneously invest in new (and maintain existing) infrastructure, create affordable and diverse housing options, and deal with the effects of climate change.

And to make matters more difficult, many cities are not yet equipped to fully address these needs.

So what can be done?

  • Firstly, municipalities should attempt to internally streamline structures, processes, and attitudes where possible, while seeking partnerships which assist in delivering more nimbly and effectively. This will improve the speed and effectiveness of their decision making, and, in the long run, improve the creation and implementation of more integrated solutions.


  • Secondly, we should help our governments understand the needs and concerns of residents, and a way to engage with civil society. This starts with informing and prompting citizens to actively consider the challenges they face, and seek out solutions with partners and municipalities that could lead to progress.


  • More generally, cities should activate clear and effective communications channels, sharing best practices, solutions, ideas for the challenges outlined above, and soliciting feedback from its citizens.


My organization, Future Cape Town (@futurecapetown) is a non-profit think tank focused on creating a platform to stimulate debate and create awareness about improving not just our city, but all cities. We are committed to public engagement, research and collaboration, and in doing so, we promote an inspired and active citizenry, a reliable and innovative government and public sector, and a private sector willing to invest in projects that offer change in new ways.

We consider partnerships based on open and clear communications to be a feasible and sustainable way forward, and this has already translated into many successes in and around our city.

We look forward to engaging with Citi, the FT, and the Ingenuity program finalists to adapt and enact this thinking worldwide.

(Photo Credit:Bruce Sutherland)