There will be an estimated 440 new cities in Africa by 2050. Are we to let the tsunami of urbanisation control our thought processes and commit us to desperate formulaic actions? Or can we leapfrog conventional urban development by visualising and designing innovative, sustainable solutions; human-centred solutions that address the needs of the people of Africa?

Unquestionably, new skills will be required. Recognising this, global engineering and infrastructure advisory company Aurecon has partnered with the School of Public Leadership (SPL) and the Designthinkers Academy to present a ‘Design Thinking for Sustainable Neighbourhoods’ course. Accredited by the University of Stellenbosch, this 3-day course will be held at the University’s Bellville Park campus from 30 November to 2 December 2016. The course is an executive-level programme that will explore urban challenges and related opportunities around the concept of sustainable neighbourhoods from an African context.

“Design is a great deal more than having an understanding of technical specifications and applying these to deliver new infrastructure,” says Aurecon’s Abbas Jamie, Head of Innovation & Transformation, Africa and a facilitator on the course. “Great design is about approaching a challenge without preconceived ideas or rigid sets of rules. The SPL course will provide an overview of human-centred design thinking tools and methods, including placing the end-user of city infrastructure at the heart of a city’s design. The evolution of our cities must solve relevant problems and make the liveability of residents its central purpose.

Human-centred design thinking tools and methods ask of us to approach a challenge from a direction that is still foreign to many organisations, including engineers. It is about understanding the challenges and needs of city dwellers in order to imagine what can be. It is about having a different, more empathetic approach to delivering great sustainable outcomes for clients and stakeholders.

“It is abundantly clear that more of the same approach to addressing urbanisation is not sustainable or desirable,” adds Jamie. The course is closely allied to the underlying philosophy of the ‘Our African City’ dialogue.

“The ‘Our African City’ dialogue was initiated, developed and owned by Africa with the intention of fostering a shared understanding across government and society about how best to manage urbanisation and contribute to achieving the goals of economic development, job creation and improved living conditions for all of our people. The accredited ‘Design Thinking for Sustainable Neighbourhoods’ course will be an important catalyst for this dialogue and an opportunity not to be missed by anyone sharing the ‘Our African City’ vision,” he concludes.

By Danielle Bond