Transforming the unwalkable city: knowledge, practices, and interventions for a more inclusive future of walking in Africa

Project leader: Daniel Oviedo
Development Planning Unit (DPU), University College London (UCL), London, UK


  • Mariajosé Nieto, Development Planning, UCL-DPU, UK
  • Clemence Cavoli, UCL-CTS, UK
  • Regina Obilie Amoako-Sakyi, University of Cape Coast (UCC), Ghana,
  • Sara Marquez Martin, Architects Without Borders (AWB), Mozambique
  • Mercilia Lombe, Architects Without Borders (AWB), Mozambique,
  • Seth Asare Okyere, University of Arizona/Osaka University (UoA), USA/Japan
  • Louis Kusi Frimpong, U. of Environment and Sustainable Development (UESD), Ghana
  • Braima Koroma, Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre (SLURC), Sierra Leone
  • Michihiro Kita, Osaka University (OU), Japan
  • Jim Walker, Walk21, UK


Walking is the predominant mode of transport in African cities. Nearly 50% of trips on the continent are made on foot. Yet informal settlements, where the 60% of urban citizens in Africa live, are predominantly unwalkable spaces. The available scholarship about walking has largely overlooked how and where informal neighbourhood dwellers walk, how they feel when they do, and what actions they and other stakeholders take in response. This proposal addresses this gap by advancing (i) a nuanced and localised understanding of the relationships between the precarity of the built environment in historically vulnerable and disadvantaged territories and the practices and experiences of pedestrians, residents, businesses, and organisations, (ii) a transnational dialogue about the agency of pedestrians and other stakeholders in shaping the conditions for walking, and (iii) the development of practice-oriented tools, pedagogies, and insights for walking policy and practice in African cities. We achieve these objectives through the comparative analysis of interventions to the walking environment made by residents, businesses, and NGOs across three African cities (Maputo, Freetown, and Accra) and their influence on the experience of walking in selected informal neighbourhoods. We use co-produced qualitative, spatial and quantitative evidence with storytelling and audio-visual documentation of the walking experience to draw parallels between the interaction of “what people do” to change their (un)walkable environments and pedestrians’ practices and experiences. We build on these analyses to elicit an evidence-based an inclusive policy dialogue with local and global stakeholders about transforming the unwalkable city. Furthermore, we draw learnings about the methods used to develop tools, open-access resources, and pedagogies for capacity building of practitioners working on walkability in global south urban contexts. The project builds on a multidisciplinary and international team to generate positive impact and expand the role of walking in informal settlements in international policy and practice.