Online urban-development training by and for African professional

African Centre for Cities is one of five knowledge institutions that will be collaborating to develop MOOCs for urban planners to meet the specific challenges of urbanisation on the continent. 

The African Cities Lab comes in response to the extremely rapid growth of African cities and the ensuing need for urban planners trained in the challenges specific to those regions, especially in the areas of urban mobility, resource availability, energy management, water supply and sanitation, and mitigating the effects of climate change. The goal is to give urban planners the tools and insight to make Africa’s urban transition sustainable and inclusive.

To that end, EPFL will develop a training platform with massive open online courses (MOOCs) that is intended specifically for urban-development practitioners in Africa; in a second phase of the project, the platform will be extended to students. The platform will be hosted at Sèmè City in Benin. Known as “the International Knowledge and Innovation City,” Sèmè City through its training programs, research projects and support for entrepreneurial ventures, aims to be a catalyst of innovative solutions for resilient and sustainable urban development.

The platform will be run by local project managers across the continent with the assistance of EPFL. ACC at University of Cape Town, along with Mohammed VI Polytechnic University in Morocco, the University of Cape Town in South Africa, the University of Carthage in Tunisia, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana and the University of Rwanda, were selected to represent a pan-African perspective and to provide the research expertise to develop the MOOCs in French and English.

EPFL is a pioneer in developing MOOCs for Europe, and its MOOCs for Africa program is already widely known on that continent. The School will receive CHF 2.65 million in funding from SECO for the first phase of the project, which is scheduled to run for two-and-a-half years.

“Our goal with the African Cities Lab is to promote sustainable urban development through a combination of online courses and continuing education programs,” says Silvio Giroud, the project manager at SECO. “We are pleased to see this initiative come to fruition, as urban development is a strategic priority for SECO.”

In addition to providing technical resources, EPFL will also train local teachers to help them adapt their classes to an online format. The MOOCs resulting from the initiative will create a knowledge network spanning the African continent, making it easier to share best practices – including between French-speaking and English-speaking countries.

We plan to build not just an online platform, but an entire educational ecosystem comprised of universities and urban-development professionals, in order to teach and implement methods that are more holistic than what we are currently seeing.

Jérôme Chenal, the academic director of EPFL’s Excellence in Africa Centre

The first step towards curriculum development is to glean insights from professionals into the knowledge gap. If you work in the urban planning and development in Africa, please take 10 minutes to complete this online survey.