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Partnership, poetry and play make for safer cities in East Africa

With locals in Kampala and Nairobi, SEI has been using the arts in a range of initiatives to increase road safety and participation in urban planning.

SEI worked with drama, art and song with two schools in Kampala using to increase awareness of road safety issues. Photo: Alon Mwesigwa

Date published
14 August 2020
A story from
East Africa

This impact story is from our 2019 annual report.

In Uganda, 400 schoolchildren die in road accidents on their way to and from school annually, according to official statistics. The World Health Organization says road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death in the country for children and young adults aged five to 29 years.

An SEI project, Implementing Creative Methodological Innovations for Inclusive Sustainable Transport Planning (i-CMiiST), set out to co-produce bottom-up solutions to improve road safety and increase mobility for vulnerable users of urban streets in Nairobi and Kampala. The project also wanted to see if co-producing these solutions with city transport planners would change their ideas on the value of co-production.

In Kampala, SEI engaged a group of artists to help pupils from two schools – Buganda Road primary and Bat Valley – to become safety champions in their schools. Poetry, cartoons, drama and song were used to make messages about road safety more compelling and memorable. The approach has been picked up by the Kampala Capital City Authority which plans to expand it to more Ugandan schools.

Luthuli Avenue in Nairobi, which has been redeveloped as a result of SEI’s engagement. Photo: Howard Cambridge / SEI.

Redevelopment benefits mobility, health and local businesses

In Nairobi, another of the project’s successes was the permanent redevelopment of Luthuli Avenue, chosen by the project as a case-study street. SEI demonstrated, using various creative methods to engage local people such as “placemaking”, time-lapse video and 3D modelling, how the street could look and function for improved mobility, health and safety, and to boost local business. The decision to go ahead with the redevelopment was helped by winning support for the scheme from local traders and users of the street by raising awareness of its benefits. This was a direct result of the way that the project, supported by UN-Habitat, worked to engage stakeholders. The Mayor of Nairobi has since approved the redevelopment.

The decision to go ahead with the redevelopment of Luthuli Avenue was helped by winning support for the scheme from traders and local people.

Africa’s first pop-up zebra crossing

Close collaboration with Kampala Capital City Authority was also key in gaining permission for the project to test a mobile 3D zebra crossing that presents drivers with the optical illusion of raised bars across the road to highlight the need to slow down and give way to pedestrians. The crossing showed the power of play in changing behaviour, and owing to its success the idea is now being rolled out at several other sites around central Kampala.

A 3D zebra crossing in Kampala. Getting buy-in from local people and stakeholders, and listening to their concerns, is critical for effective urban planning. Photo: Alon Mwesigwa.

Collaboration and participation are key

One of the SDG targets for more sustainable cities is to increase participation in urban planning. And central to the successes of the project was working closely with local people, NGOs, government officials, city council officers and industry representatives. These groups were not only participants in the creative approaches but also, crucially, helped to identify how the outputs from creative engagement could influence change.

The toolkit of methods developed by SEI as part of the i-CMiiST project has been included by the United Nations in its guidance for increasing its regional impact.

SDG 11

Sustainable cities and communities

More than 65% of the world’s population is projected to live in urban areas by 2050, with major implications for resource use, energy, water and sanitation, and health and wellbeing. At the same time urbanization can bring benefits, especially efficiency gains. SEI examines these challenges in the round to advance sustainable urbanization.

SDG11 co-benefits. SDG11 is connected to SDG 3 and 17.

Connecting to the SDGs

SDG 11 makes clear that the participation of civil society in urban planning is central to achieving sustainable city environments. The i-CMiiST project has taken innovative steps to involve stakeholders in urban decisionmaking, particularly vulnerable or marginalized groups. It also contributes to the target under SDG 3: Good health and well-being to halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents by 2020. And partnerships were at the heart of the work, meaning it also contributes to SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals.