Feedback on the 1st workshop led by EXAF team in Abidjan
Excellence in Africa 's project on "Digital Solutions for Sustainable Cities in West Africa" proposes an innovative approach to sustainable urbanisation. It is based on the collective intelligence of authorities, universities, civil society and the private sector to identify major challenges, develop locally tailored technical solutions and then implement them in cities.
The forecasts are clear: the population of Sub-Saharan Africa will double by 2050 and this increase is expected to be even greater in West Africa and in urban areas. A number of challenges have already been identified and it is essential to address but to anticipate them.
The project targets four cities in West Africa: Abidjan, Cotonou, Ouagadougou and Bamako. Living Labs will be set up to facilitate dialogue between stakeholders, select the most promising sectors, and supervise innovation projects. In addition, start-up incubators will support the emergence and development of innovative companies that will drive the growth of the digital sector. The project, co-financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), has entered the preparatory phase and will start, in principle, at the end of 2023.
To ensure a participatory approach from the outset and in developing the project, the EXAF team conducted its first workshop in Abidjan on Wednesday 15 March 2023. The objective was to bring together potential stakeholders and partners to exchange on the framework and objectives of establishing a Living Lab in Abidjan.
The Academic Director of the Centre of Excellence in Africa, Dr. Jérôme Chenal, laid the foundations of the project: "Calls for projects will be launched with a certain number of criteria, intended for researchers in Côte d'Ivoire to carry out applied research". He emphasised that: "the idea is that each person in his or her own discipline can take up one of these projects to experiment with solutions that can then be implemented in the neighbourhoods of Abidjan".
The workshop was a great success. The stakeholders present seized the opportunity to construct together the milestones of the Living Lab, the selection criteria for applied research projects, as well as priority issues relevant to Abidjan's context. Experts, academics, representatives of ministries or cities, entrepreneurs, start-up managers, representatives of city councils and international organisations working on urban issues in Abidjan to worked together throughout the day.
"Digital technology will be a very important tool for conveying our information (...) and also for informing, when necessary, the population of certain dangers or disasters," said the Vice-President of the University of Félix Houphouët Boigny, who is convinced of the project's benefits.
"From an application, you can, for example, solve administrative problems, but also find transport, have databases concerning land, and therefore have land security: these are solutions that we are ready to implement in our various communes," adds the Deputy Mayor of Koumassi.
Existing projects within the cities were also brought. They will provide important anchor points to create synergies to ensure an efficient development of the project.
Thanks to the concrete contributions of the working groups, the workshop made achieved the main objective of the project, i.e. to contribute to the sustainable development of the city of Abidjan for the most deprived populations or those living in the most precarious areas of the city.
Our thanks go to all the stakeholders of the project, who made it possible to take up the challenge of collective and participatory implementation.
The EXAF team would also like to thank the Swiss Embassy in Côte d'Ivoire for its support and active participation in the workshop.