Transport & Kampala – the first stop on an African journey

Simina Lazar

By Simina Lazar, on January 31st, 2020

> Read Simina Lazar's articles

How do you transfer a tried and tested city-to-city cooperation method from one continent to another? How do you make the cities you’re working with more resilient and sustainable in the process? These are only some of the questions that ASToN, a network of 12 African cities using digital tools to overcome local and global challenges, will respond to.

This story starts in a matatu

Edward, our mini-bus driver, turns on the engine, we leave the car park and we are off towards our hotel. It is rush hour in Kampala (Uganda) and the central business district is packed. Many people are walking, but the streets are still filled with ‘matatus’ (taxi-vans like ours) and with ‘boda-bodas’ (local taxi motorbikes).

Whenever I find myself caught in traffic in this city I am amazed by how – despite poor signage, little or no respect of regulations and no prioritisation of public transport – the number of car accidents is relatively low. Truth be told, on that humid October afternoon, we spent nearly 90 minutes in the van for less than 5 kilometres. No wonder the number of accidents is so low, right?
















But that’s only one part of the story

Edward works for the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), a structure created in 2010 to govern and administer all the city services on behalf of the national government. Among many other projects and results, Kampala Authority has a top-notch traffic control centre that looks at those crossroads that have signalling systems, where the traffic flow can be monitored and controlled.  They represent only 2% of the total number of major street junctions in the city, but this is just the beginning. The city is actively looking at ways to scale up this model and to sustainably develop its mobility plan in the process, finding resources to implement it, involving business owners, national agencies and users in the process.  And this is the reason we are all there.

And who’s in the van?

We are a group of about 30 people, coming from 11 different countries and we are all in Kampala to try out something completely new.

We are putting together the first network of African cities using digital tools to overcome local and global challenges. It is called ASToN. Through peer exchange and learning, engaging local stakeholders and taking a results-oriented approach, we are making our cities more sustainable and inclusive places to live and work. Our hope is that by creating a cohort of cities and collaborating in this way, ASToN cities can become leading digital actors, faster, and in a way that’s inclusive and sustainable for each’s own local context.

If the language sounds familiar to you, you’re right. It sounds a lot like an URBACT network. This is because we are using the URBACT tools and methodology to build ASToN. And we are doing this for the first time in a non-European context.

In 2018, the French Development Agency (AFD) and URBACT put together a call for African cities to create a network of cities transitioning towards the digital – ASToN.  12 African cities were selected, each from a different country: Algiers (Algeria), Bamako (Mali), Benguerir (Morocco), Bizerte (Tunisia), Kampala (Uganda), Kigali (Rwanda), Kumasi (Ghana), Lagos (Nigeria), Maputo-Matola (Mozambique), Niamey (Niger), Nouakchott (Mauritania) and Sémé-Podji (Benin) .

The themes we are tackling are broad and different for each city. Challenges we are exploring include data management, land registry, governance, waste management, mobility and transport among others. Each city in our network has selected a topic to focus on and they all have in common one goal – using digital & tech to leapfrog into the future.







(Click on the map to enlarge)


And back to Kampala

Kampala, together with Lagos and Niamey are working on mobility and transport. Sarah Kanyike, Deputy Mayor for the City of Kampala explains: “Kampala city has many challenges, but mobility and transport are [among] the most important ones. Even if 53% of the traffic in the city is still pedestrian, we have serious problems of traffic congestion. Average speed during peak hours is 10km/h which creates problems of security, health and pollution.”

Kampala is determined to solve this challenge, not only with infrastructure, regulation and user behaviour approaches, but by using digital tools in the process. Sarah Kanyike adds: “Digital tools in general make the access to services more convenient, because most clients can access services from anywhere. They also help reduce queues at the city administration service centres and improve client compliance and regulations enforcement. We also get stakeholder buy-in through quick, affordable and effective communication, which makes our work much easier.”

Together with the other ASToN cities, Kampala will go through a three-phase process EXPLORE – ENGAGE – EXPERIMENT that will allow them by 2022 to co-design and test innovative and sustainable mobility solutions for their city.

If you want to know more about the story of Kampala and the other cities involved in ASToN, follow us at @aston_network

And this article is only the first one in a series for the URBACT blog that will tell the ASToN story and its connection with URBACT.

ASToN flagship programme is financed by the French Development Agency (AFD), managed by the French National Urban Renovation Agency (ANRU) and uses URBACT knowledge and tools.

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