Mutare City Council has bagged two international awards at the inaugural Multi City Challenge Africa, defeating cities like Accra, Kano and Kampala in a public engagement challenge, aimed at tackling pressing urban problems with innovative solutions.
The open innovation challenge was facilitated by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Global Centre for Technology, Innovation, and Sustainable Development and The Governance Lab (The GovLab) at New York University Tandon School of Engineering.
The winning solutions were submitted by two youths, a 21 year old student at the University of Zimbabwe, Petronella Mabika and Tererai Maposa, a Projects Director at LADS Africa.
Mabika speaking her proposal which was selected said it was targeting to deal with flooding- an emergent problem for Mutare city which raised its ugly head during this rainy season in Hobhouse and Dream house high density suburbs.
She said the best way to reduce flooding is maintaining the nature’s flooding system control of wetlands, which have been invaded for settlements by several municipalities including in Mutare.
“My proposal is based on how to deal with high levels of rains to avoid flooding. Because of the negative impact of flooding on the environment, people and infrastructure its best to find ways on how to deal with flooding. Therefore conserving wetlands is the best way to deal with flooding,“ said Mabika.
The Multi-City Challenge was introduced for local authorities, with the help of residents, to come up with proposals of innovative solutions to deal with issues such as proper waste management and infrastructure development.
The other winning submission by Maposa seeks to solve the vendor conundrum through an application that can denote the best possible sites for council to set up markets through geo referencing.
“The mobile app we proposed for Mutare City allows nomadic vendors to capture each transaction which will be geo referenced so that we do some data manning to come up with intelligence that informs the council where to install markets for a particular type of vendors,” said Maposa.
Mutare City Council Acting Town Clerk, Dr Antony Mutara said the Multi-City Challenge was a learning curve for the local authority.
“Our next step is to come up with an implementation matrix because good ideas should not remain on the shelf but we should implement them. Now that the ideas have been validated that they work the only remaining thing is to implement them,” he said.
The city’s triumph in the challenge over other African cities is testament of how public private partnerships can drive innovative solutions from the public, in a bid to build a pool of ‘collective intelligence’.
Service delivery challenges abound in most local authorities across Africa, and the Multi City challenge provides the public an opportunity to influence development in their cities which are riddled with viability issues.
Kimberly Sithole chairperson of the local Multi City Challenge coordinating committee, said the city focus on building urban resilience, was a across cutting issue which resonates with Zimbabweans, where conservatively seventy percent are in the informal sector.
She said the challenge presented a unique opportunity for youths, in tandem with councils’ deliberate strategy to mainstream citizen participation and inclusion.
“For the City of Mutare we were focusing on urban resilience. It’s was opportunity for young people who have ideas but feel that they are left behind, as they could just click on the website and submit innovative solutions to build resilience,” said Sithole.
The Multi-City Challenge Africa builds on successful implementation of the City and Multi-City Challenge model in Latin America, the US, and Europe. African city leaders will have the opportunity to work with other cities, pooling the expertise from their communities in this first-of-its-kind public engagement effort across cities.
UNDP says it is prioritizing sustainable urbanization across Africa, especially in the devastating context of COVID-19. Africa’s urban population will triple to over 1.3 billion people by 2050 – so inclusive and sustainable cities are a priority.
Under the Multi-City Challenge public servants are extensively trained on citizen engagement, curriculum on problem definition. Building on these training, each city is given an opportunity launch an open innovation challenge.