Core Session: Creativity / Re-embedding imagination into the everyday

On Africa Day 2021, RISE Africa convened a discussion on ‘Shaping and owning African urban narratives through literature, art and movement building’ which articulated the immense creative potential held in African cities, the need to embrace diverse African identities, and the imperative to include artists, poets, musicians and other creatives in development processes.

This session broadens the conversation to on creativity to reflect on how innovation, reflection and creative expression manifest in multiple sectors and organisations in our cities. It critiques what may be perceived as a fundamental lack of imagination in addressing the overwhelming societal, economic and environmental pressures that our cities are facing. This lack of imagination is not malicious, but potentially driven by inherited institutional structures, adoption of acontextual development paradigms and a privileging of external knowledge over traditional, indigenous, embedded or practice-based knowledge. The session explores how we can embrace and champion imagination in our everyday activities, to support better decision making, social life, public space, economic development and more


À l’occasion de la Journée de l’Afrique 2021, RISE Africa a organisé une discussion sur le thème “Façonner et s’approprier les récits urbains africains par la littérature, l’art et la création de mouvements”, qui a mis en évidence l’immense potentiel créatif des villes africaines, la nécessité d’embrasser les diverses identités africaines et l’impératif d’inclure les artistes, poètes, musiciens et autres créateurs dans les processus de développement. 

Cette session élargit la conversation à la créativité pour réfléchir à la manière dont l’innovation, la réflexion et l’expression créative se manifestent dans de multiples secteurs et organisations dans nos villes. Elle critique ce qui peut être perçu comme un manque fondamental d’imagination pour faire face aux pressions sociétales, économiques et environnementales écrasantes auxquelles nos villes sont confrontées. Ce manque d’imagination n’est pas malveillant, mais il est potentiellement dû à des structures institutionnelles héritées, à l’adoption de paradigmes de développement acontextuels et à un privilège des connaissances externes par rapport aux connaissances traditionnelles, indigènes, intégrées ou basées sur la pratique. La session explore comment nous pouvons embrasser et défendre l’imagination dans nos activités quotidiennes, afin de soutenir une meilleure prise de décision, la vie sociale, l’espace public, le développement économique et plus encore.


Host: ICLEI Africa, Our Future Cities, African Centre for Cities

Eddie Jjemba

Red Cross Crescent Climate Centre

Malika Ndlovu


Tosin Oshinowo

Principal Architect, CMDesign Atelier

Rashiq Fataar

Director, Our Future Cities

Nwabisa Mayema

Strategic Partnerships Director, Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship, South Africa

Paul Currie

Manager: Urban Systems Unit, ICLEI Africa

Olamide Ejorh

Director, Lagos Urban Development Initiative

Session Summary

The opening session of RISE Africa 2022, was opened by Paul Currie of ICLEI Africa and Hosted by Eddie Jjemba of Red Cross Crescent Climate Centre. The session explored the meaning of creativity from a broad range of panelists from different backgrounds and locations all with the common goal of sharing the importance of creativity for prosperous, sustainable and equitable African Cities of the Future.

Creativity was encouraged from the start of the session when Paul Currie requested a song suggestion in the chat by the audience that reminded them of creativity. The creative energy was continued by Malika Ndlovu through a live creative expression of song and poetry, capturing the idea that creativity exists within us all. This idea was echoed by Nwabisa Mayeme, of The Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship, and Tosin Oshinowo, of CMDesign Atelier, who identified that through their work with business and in the built environment, we need to embrace the creativity inherent in people and cultures in African Cities. Rashiq Fataar, of Our Future Cities, spoke from an Urbanist perspective to the idea of pushing creative boundaries in our work and allowing creativity to flourish through challenging the traditional view on investment and funding.

The session allowed reflections from each of the panelists differing perspectives on how they foster creativity with themes of indigenous wealth, learning from others and collaboration featuring. In closing the panelists shared that collaboration, looking within, expanding our minds to see the creative ideas that surround us and ambition combined with optimism are key to unlocking a creative approach to solving complex issues in African Cities.