African Cities Research Consortium (ACRC)
Cities are complex, dynamic, political systems. We bring together the right people and an understanding of the political economy of individual cities to identify and address the critical challenges they are facing. Our aim is to generate insights and evidence that will help improve the living conditions, services and life chances of all city residents, particularly for disadvantaged communities.

From the beginning, our research and engagement is focused on generating a rich, nuanced understanding of the city. By combining a systems approach with political analysis, informed by a wide range of perspectives, we will identify complex problems. Working with local reform coalitions, we will explore new approaches to tackle recognised urban challenges.

To address the systemic nature of these challenges, we focus on urban development domains. These broad fields of power, policy and practice go beyond sectorial silos and provide the potential to unlock reform.

We will bring together community organisations, local government and agencies to co-produce knowledge and evidence. Once complex problems in focus cities have been identified, we will undertake action research alongside urban reformers to help catalyse transformative changes for all residents. We are committed to reaching marginalised groups including women, children and those with disabilities with financially robust, environmentally sustainable and politically achievable reforms.

Emerging insights of what works and potential solutions to urban challenges will be continually shared across the continent and beyond.

Project Location

ACRC has identified 13 initial cities within sub-Saharan Africa with the potential and need for urban reform: Accra, Ghana; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo; Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; Freetown, Sierra Leone; Harare, Zimbabwe; Kampala, Uganda; Khartoum, Sudan; Lagos, Nigeria; Lilongwe, Malawi; Maiduguri, Nigeria; Mogadishu, Somalia; Nairobi, Kenya

Project Duration


Project Highlights

  • Publication of city scoping studies; Accra, Lilongwe, Freetown and Harare

  • Inception interim workshops:

    • Accra interim workshop; 16-17 February 2022
    • Freetown; 10-11 March 2022
    • Lilongwe; 13-14 April 2022
    • Harare; 16 July 2022
  • ACRC consortium workshops; Accra, Lilongwe, Freetown and Harare

Project aims

Our research is structured under four key themes, which will be explored over three sequential phases of work, with uptake running throughout:

Phase 1: Inception
Phase 2: Foundation
Phase 3: Implementation

>> uptake >> 

Four themes:

Theme 1: Rethinking African cities – concepts and theory.
Theme 2: Understanding cities as systems.
Theme 3: Tackling priority complex problems to unlock urban systems.
Theme 4: Research uptake, including pathways to impact and synthesis.


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“The long-term prospects for much of Africa will hinge on creating more sustainable, equitable and inclusive cities. The African Cities Research Consortium will enable us to tease out the complexities and highlight potential solutions to improve urban centres across the continent”.
Professor Diana Mitlin

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Main Contact

Funmi Adeniyi