African Cities Research Consortium

The African Cities Research Consortium brings together a range of international partners to explore and tackle the complexity around urban development in some of Africa’s biggest cities.

2020 - 2026
Anna Walnycki

Principal researcher, Human Settlements research group

Urban poverty
A programme of work showing how IIED is working to reduce urban poverty and to change misleading views about urbanisation.
Aerial view of Accra, Ghana.

Accra, Ghana, is one of the cities taking part in the African Cities Research Consortium project that aims to address urban development challenges in Africa (Photo: Virgyl Sowah, via Unsplash)

The African Cities Research Consortium (ACRC) aims to generate evidence to tackle complex urbanisation problems in some of Africa’s fastest growing city areas through localised activity.

Led by professor Diana Mitlin, from the Global Development Institute at the University of Manchester and also a principal researcher at IIED, the consortium brings together a number of international partners committed to catalysing change for urban communities.

These include the UK-based Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI); the African-based organisations ICLEI Africa, the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR) and Slum Dwellers International (SDI); as well as international groups such as the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER).

The objective is to produce new knowledge that can catalyse integrated, sustainable and inclusive approaches to address development challenges faced in some of Africa’s biggest urban communities.

Mitlin said: “The long-term prospects for much of Africa will hinge on creating more sustainable, equitable and inclusive cities. The African Cities Research Consortium will enable us to tease out the complexities and highlight potential solutions to improve urban centres across the continent”.

A short 70-second video introducing the African Cities Research Consortium

The consortium builds on recent work that IIED’s Human Settlements research group has undertaken for the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (previously DFID) on the Urban Crises Learning Fund and on shelter provision in East African cities.

What will IIED do?

The project will initially focus on 13 selected African cities. This will allow practitioners and investigators to conduct intensive and inter-connected research that delivers real insight for local authorities, civil society and donors.

These cities are: Accra (Ghana), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Bukavu (DRC), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Freetown (Sierra Leone), Harare (Zimbabwe), Kampala (Uganda), Khartoum (Sudan), Lagos (Nigeria), Lilongwe (Malawi), Maiduguri (Nigeria), Mogadishu (Somalia), and Nairobi (Kenya).

The consortium will frame the research within the 'city as a system' approach. This aims to move beyond the sectoral silos of development research and interventions, and allows practitioners and researchers to treat and examine each city as a complex system itself.

The integration of this practice with a political and technical analysis, undertaken by key players on the ground, will enable the group to address large scale urban development challenges.