Eight ways to build better African cities – Chatham House

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Young professionals from across the continent tell Emmanuel Adegboye how city life could be improved: from high-speed rail to people-centred urban planning.
Academy Associate, Africa Programme

Ahmed Elsawy, 33, Director of Talent
Cairo, Egypt
We must amend employment law in Egypt to support individual contractors to match with the global demand for short-term and project-based assignments within the tech and service industries. While we have a new, decent education system, I think we should care more about foreign languages to have a higher rank when it comes to the global competition of skilled workers.
Iman Abubaker, 31, Urban Mobility Project Manager, WRI Africa
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Rapid urbanization and increased motorization have exacerbated the city’s urban challenges. Addis Ababa would benefit from safer street design and people-centred city planning. Urban amenities should be located within walking and cycling distances. For longer trips, the city needs to invest in improving the accessibility, safety, integration and multimodality of its public transport system. I would love to see more pockets of green spaces and parks all around the city. 
Bree, 31, Project Manager
Nairobi, Kenya
I have a love-hate relationship with Nairobi. I spent four years smack in the middle of the city while attending the University of Nairobi. Being in the middle of all the hustle and bustle made the transition to a sleepy-ish coastal town easy. I would happily trade matatus [shared taxis] for tuktuks any day. I do miss the conveniences that come with a big city like a 24-hour grocery store and delivery services on those lazy days.
Mfon Bassey, 30, Co-Founder, TalentX Africa
Lagos, Nigeria
The government should improve the road networks and public transport systems, because the common challenge most Lagosians face is commuting from point A to B without traffic. There are so many private cars on the road because the public transport system isn’t optimally efficient yet. Once you take away the commute time most workers spend just to get work done, we’ll surely have happier Lagosians.
Olga Kiconco, 32, Innovation Strategist
Kampala, Uganda
As one of Africa’s fastest-growing cities with a projected 112 per cent population growth by 2035, there are a number of critical changes that need to be made in preparation for this. Our leaders should embrace coherent policies that will catalyze socio-economic transformation. We need to hold them accountable for better infrastructure and delivery of public services, while taking personal responsibility to protect our environment against the prevalent threat of climate change.
Etienne Amougou, 30, Curator/Arts Project Manager
Yaounde, Cameroon
What would make Yaounde better would be a good ecosystem that provides more opportunities for young people. If it was possible, I would like to see the creation of more cultural spaces, like parks, zoos, cinemas and sport areas. Also, we could use a more effective approach to waste management – sometimes we have trash everywhere in the ’hood.
Valentino Fernandez, 23, Writer
Johannesburg, South Africa
 We need better transportation to bridge the inequality gap and allow the youth to access spaces to be inspired and create change. Apartheid spatial planning is still affecting us. People of colour were relegated to the outskirts of the city, and very little has changed. It’s virtually impossible to move out of your childhood home, which means you’re looking at a two-hour commute every morning and two more hours to get home. I would like a reliable, affordable, high-speed rail system.
Jean-Louis Mbaka, 34, Co-Founder and Director, Education at Kinshasa Digital
Kinshasa, DRC
Our youth must receive a sufficient education that is in line with the strategic requirements of their future workplaces. By 2030, more than 130 million jobs in Africa will require digital skills, according to the International Finance Corporation. To close the gap between the conventional educational system and the labour market, our organisation is providing training for digital jobs. Initiatives like ours must be supported if the current and next generations are to have the means for their economic and social advancement. Scaling up investments in vital facilities like the internet is also necessary.
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