The 2019 Harare Innovation Days (HID) brought together UNDP country office staff, ‘strategic urban risk holders’ and edge experimenters from 23 countries across Africa under the banner of #NextGenCities to build shared understanding of the interdependencies and complexities facing Africa’s diverse urban realities, with clear clusters of common challenges — such as urban economies and informality, water management, the jobs deficit and waste services — you can read more about the context of HID in a blog we published before the event.
As a follow up to the event we launched the NextGenCities2020 program that seeks to build capabilities for designing mission-based strategic portfolios of interventions to tackle wicked issues and dynamics that COVID merely surfaced and accelerated. The focus on portfolios is meant to recognize and build on assets that already exist, amplify existing efforts, transcend individual sectors and layer interventions that act across multiple phases and entry points. As Edgar Pieterse of the African Center for Cities in Cape Town, African cities desperately need “a more coordinated, sequenced and integrated approach to infrastructure planning, investment, delivery, maintenance and repair.” Two countries qualified for the program, Zimbabwe and Angola — this is 1of 2 posts that seeks to capture some of the early learnings, here, from the Angola team (you can read about the work our colleagues in Zimbabwe are doing here).
In Angola, we are exploring emerging dynamics of urban markets in a country where over 70% of the economy is informal (as of 2020, 79.6% or about 8 million people to be exact). While we don’t have good data on (informal) urban markets specifically, some 66% of informal employment takes place in urban areas, with a markedly higher percentage among women (89.5%) then men (69.6%).
The markets feature inherent duality — on one side, they are a source of agility and resilience, one of the most democratic spaces in the country that thrive on diversity and rapidly adapt to emerging threats and opportunities (one implication of COVID is rapid digitization of informal vendor services that is expanding markets, growing consumer base, reducing running costs and increasing efficiencies).
On the other, those involved with informal urban markets face immense exposure to risk with little to no access to social services and protection. The intent of our team in Angola then is to create three development effects in relations to urban markets:
· Generate a wide national recognition and legitimacy of the urban market system that spotlights the value it generates to the society (resilience, diversity, diversification of economy) and where ‘informality’ may not be the correct term for the type of value that emerges in these spaces
· Foster decent work and social protection to address the immense exposure to risk and uncertainty by those partaking in urban markets (also building on Government’s efforts to use COVID response as a way to design long term support programs for vulnerable populations and informality), and
· Augment a system of value creation in urban markets that is adaptive and efficient by incentivizing agility and entrepreneurship (partly tapping into the COVID-related programs that could improve hygiene, sanitation and overall conditions in the urban markets).
Representation of dynamics that exist in the urban markets in Angola (the methodology for the first part of the program is adapted from the Chora Foundation)
The system landscape (above visual) of the urban markets in Angola is framed by three critical elements that generate core dynamics in this system. We unpacked each of these elements through the lenses that we find most relevant for us in order to understand where to intervene in the system and that generate both negative and positive dynamics that can be calibrated to achieve development effects:
· Social capital that emerges from and sustains activity in urban markets, that is nested in social ties and generates trust, and that emerges from repeated interactions and experiences in and around urban markets. Social capital embodies individual agency of vendors and their agility and resilience equally as the value that lies within social collective networks that create protection mechanisms (eg. traditional collective loan and credit schemes for peer support in health or funeral needs, shared procurement and transport of goods) in spaces where formal ones don’t exist. It also indicates cases where its value charts the path toward recognition of the social value urban markets bring to the society and the economy.
· Governance or a capability of the system to make decisions about itself, which in the case of urban markets implies both formal and informal ‘rules of the game.’ This element recognizes that urban markets are a source of continued renewable and emergence of new models of value creation and protection (eg. self-organized child carrying services in some markets) and a distance between those and formal rules that influence both behaviours and relationships within and around urban markets
· Determinants of value creation in urban markets, that in part foster the emergence of the capability of the system to make decisions (the governance element), partly from the social interactions and capital that is embedded in the system, and partly driven by the quality of conditions (infrastructure, capabilities, and supply chains). (e.g. 1 toilet for 3000 vendors, no stall or roofing, no running water or electricity)
We also identified several lateral elements or those factors that generate a strong impact on our system that we can only adapt to (as opposed to control). These can generate both opportunities and risks, for example COVID has created a massive socio-economic trauma in the country but at the same time accelerated the transition to more digital means of commerce- and by extension will have an effect on the composition of our portfolio.
Representing the dynamics of urban markets in this type of a visual form allowed us to identify interconnections and relations between these elements, and enabled us to identify specific positions and entry points that we want to explore. We consider these to be strategic options that we want to make, places we want to go in this system, explore and learn in order to be in a better position to affect change. These options together start framing the nucleus of our portfolio of strategic options to transform urban markets.
For example, we want to explore the connection between regulations, infrastructure and individual agency to explore the potential of emerging digital platforms for mobile money and e-commerce for expanding markets and generating value. Existing regulations are not a good fit with the needs of either the digital or informal sector, therefore this requires a design of a new generation of policies that can facilitate the adherence to, and expansion of digital solutions for new markets.
We also want to explore the link between social collective networks and infrastructure, where we take note and wish to tap into the emerging, hybrid models of integrated social service and protection (eg. reading and digital tools classes for vendors, or pop up child care services) that enable more dynamic value creation in the markets. This is especially relevant in the context where informal employment in non agricultural sector in urban areas (including commerce) is far greater for women (78%) than men (42.5%).
The way forward to creating better conditions is recognizing that the value of self-organizing urban markets (and addressing urban hunger in case of our colleagues in Zimbabwe) by fostering resilience in the city-region food system isn’t a function of one or two interventions, but of a dynamic portfolio of responses that learn from each other and evolves over time. This is what the two teams are working on at the moment. What we have learnt is that there is a need to explore new ways in which innovative governance of city-making (beyond traditional models of urban planning) can lead to the attainment of SDGs and that those ways to a large extent emerge from citizens themselves adapting and responding to changes that in many cases they have no control over (eg. covid).
New forms of entrepreneurship, infrastructure provision, use of data and decision-making methods can all create shared value and contribute to sustainable urban development in ways that call into question established paradigms of planning and urban design, that still require effective governance but maybe not of the type that we have seen evolve over the last hundred years. Therefore, these two sets of urban mission portfolios (you can check out the work of our colleagues in Zimbabwe here) are part of a larger process that would see the translation of the #NextGenCities agenda to the reality of Africa’s urbanisation challenges, as well as enabling acceleration of positive change in city governance institutions, financing, planning and market mechanisms across the continent.
Stay tuned and get in touch if you’re interested in collaborating!
*Angola and Zimbabwe teams are supported by: UNDP Zoe Pelter, Amy Gill and Minerva Novero (Governance team) and Milica Begovic, Aylin Schulz van Endert, Prateeksha Singh, and Soren Haldrup (Strategic Innovation Unit), the Dark Matter Labs (Joost Beunderman, Zehra Zaidi, Meggan Collins, Dan Wainwright), and the African Center for Cities at University of Cape Town (Dr Edgar Pieterse and Liza Cirolia).