RISE Africa: Inspiring Action for Sustainable Cities

RISE Africa is ICLEI Africa’s annual event that inspires impactful actions for enhanced sustainability and resilience in Africa’s urban areas. Exposure to forward-thinking ideas from different disciplines through a range of curated interactions will provide an antidote to outdated “silo” thinking that is well recognised to inhibit innovation. Instead of being another ‘talk shop’ amongst like-minded individuals, RISE Africa brings a diversity of city role players together in innovative sessions to identify new opportunities for collaborative action.



From the westernmost point of Africa, Ngor in Dakar, to the southern city of Cape Town, to the northmost city of Bizerte – technology, innovation and art have reshaped and redefined creative expression in African cities. The people at the heart of these expressions are as diverse as the foods, marketplaces, architecture, city centres and knowledge centres that have emerged through thousands of years.

Separated geographically, they are still intimately connected through networks of shared knowledge, science, history, culture, religion and the ambition and need to innovate. The ancient city of Zazzau (now Zaria) was a melting pot of trade and cultures as far back as the late 16th Century. The Great stone structures of Zimbabwe, that stretched all the way to Mozambique and date back to as early as the 9th Century, played host to massive knowledge and trade centres. The ancient city of Timbuktu held its pride of place for half a century as a city for learning and innovation, hosting well-traveled residents, famous for educating prominent Islamic scholars. African cities have been locations of tension and experimentation, as deep histories merge with new innovations and progressive ideas to make new cultures. This creative process weaves together knowledge, practice and art to inform and guide society.

African identity, in all its forms, is complementary to the African renaissance. The what, the who and the why of the continent have evolved through the years, shaped by the rich history of yesteryears, though often obscured and hidden through the atrocities and imposed practices of colonialism.

In 2013, Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, said ‘Africa’s story has been written by others; we need to own our problems and solutions and write our story’. African countries, cities and its people, are re-writing their stories – they are using their voice, and demanding better lives and livelihoods. Ever-more, people and societies are deliberately making space for the voices of their vulnerable, for those previously unacknowledged or oppressed, knowing that diverse experiences and perspectives contribute to stronger societies.

These stories acknowledge the often overwhelming challenges of the present – the pace of urbanisation, deepening inequality, rising joblessness, food insecurity, ecological degradation and the climate crisis, weave together to present a frightening prospect: if we do not act decisively now, our futures will be decided for us. We need to act to build resilience in our communities and to respond to unprecedented shocks, while being proactive in supporting human rights and resource efficient, naturally regenerative and socially inclusive practices. What could our cities look like, if we learn from our most strategic, responsive and resilient residents? What does a fully African form of urbanism offer to addressing our challenges and shaping globally aspirational cities? Today, Africa stands at the cusp of a re-imagined rather than an altogether new identity. Next to these overwhelming challenges, we must note the possibilities of the present – a young population with new ideas and energy to be unleashed, cityscapes that have yet to be designed and built, and food, fashion and music cultures worth sharing. We must reimagine our cities, and make these imaginaries physical, now.

The stories of cities in Africa are tethered to the agency of its people, the rich creativity that is the hallmark of the continent, and the awareness of the urgency with which we must drive change.

RISE Africa 2022 is poised to be the think tank for generating creative actions that reposition African urbanism and set a new path for our cities, as Africa, together with the rest of the world, emerges from what we hope are the worst of the pandemic years. As a platform for thinkers, doers and enablers, RISE Africa aims to create space for deep learning for all, as we envision and design innovative forms of action towards creating cities that are sustainable, equitable and uniquely African in their individual contexts.

We want to create innovative yet practical, measurable and achievable ways forward. How can we optimise and unlock the financing that our cities desperately need to address the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss? How do we harness the opportunities that a low-carbon society and nature-positive development brings, without compromising ancient African sustainability practices and ethos? What community-led examples can be duplicated and scaled up across cities in Africa on the path to our re-envisioned futures? How can creating new paths in urban food, water, energy and waste systems contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals? Which ideas offer the best potential for leapfrogging dirty, inequitable systems into the future? What practices showcase how African cities can grow their economies and improve people’s lives, without compromising their urban natural assets?

RISE Africa 2022 invites you to sit in the tension points between Creativity, Agency and Urgency, to share new concepts and activities across multiple urban themes, and various streams of influence including finance, governance, the arts, and grassroots mobilisation. We invite you to share your contributions to the re-imagining necessary to make equitable, sustainable African cities.





RISE Africa welcomes a diversity of session types in addition to those listed below. We encourage sessions and hosts to push the boundaries on the format, creativity and interactivity of the session where it would be valuable to forming new connections and inspiring actions from participants.

Open Call entries close on 22 March 2022.


Dialogue & Performance Sessions: These are considered to be more passive sessions comprising panel discussions, 1-1 dialogues or interviews and artistic performances, be it film screening, music, poetry, multimedia showcases or other forms of creative expression.

Action Sessions: These are active workshop-style sessions which aim to develop an idea; to draw people together (matchmaking); to produce something or shape an idea/project; to bring people together to produce a piece of art or creative output; to launch a programme or initiative and so forth.

Trainings: A focused training session on a specific idea/concept/methodology which can improve an aspect of urban development. All training sessions must have a contextual awareness of African cities  and provide participants with a clear indication of what they will gain or learn.

Field Trips or Tours: These sessions will aim to give participants a city life in various contexts and places. This session leader may provide a live Instagram tour, lead a walking tour on a digital platform with narration, take participants through a project, building or place.