Each year about 70 million people migrate to the city! Can you imagine? That means that every week almost 1.5 million people leave their place of birth and replace it with the overcrowded, lively atmosphere of the city.
My entire life I have been fascinated by this massive worldwide urban migration. Why is this happening? Where exactly? And especially: what does this urbanization of the world mean to its inhabitants; to our lives?
As The Urban Detective I will try to find answers to these questions, thereby putting my knowledge about- and passion for cities into action. I will travel the world to investigate some of the greatest urban challenges of our time.
So what am I going to do for three months exactly?
Spend a lot of time in overcrowded, lively and wild places? Yes! Travel by means of transport which will very likely tear down on the way? Probably. Meet amazing urbanites and drink beers with my new friends? Certainly hope so! Write articles, make videos and lock myself in a hotel room until I finish something really good? Most definitely!
The plan is as follows. From May until August, I will visit three countries: Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. These countries all border Lake Victoria, the biggest lake in Africa.
Starting in Nairobi, but without any real direction beforehand, I will travel around the lake and visit the most interesting places, guided and determined by the people I meet on the go.
Every place I visit, I will investigate what challenge(s) this city or village is facing. And more importantly: what opportunities and solutions are created by its inhabitants as a consequence?
This can touch all sorts of themes. For example, infrastructure: how do cities cope with the mobilization of their rapidly growing number of inhabitants? Social inclusion questions related to coping with the massive diversity that characterizes cities. Housing, sustainability, new economies, you name it.
"Africa is urbanizing in a tremendous pace!"
Everything that has to do with the migration to- and clustering of people in cities can be my area of investigation. Where research will take place and what it about depends on the people I meet and the stories I chase.
There are only two rules. Being back in Nairobi in three months, and having crossed Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, thus having circled Lake Victoria. By means of beautiful imagery, well-investigated research blogs, and striking videos, I will try to inspire all urbanites around the world.
Why am I doing this?
Isn’t it true that where transitions are most drastic and where change is most rapid, also innovation and inspiration will flourish the most? Then how come I almost never hear about amazing discoveries and new inventions for pressing urban issues coming out of Africa?
The economic potential combined with ongoing population growth makes it at least one of the (if not ‘THE’) most interesting continents to investigate urbanization.
Cities are growing at a tremendous pace; Africa is urbanizing in a tremendous pace! It probably has something to do with the negative, always overshadowing the positive, something that has been bothering me for a very long time. Problems and crisis always dominate the media due to their ‘sensational value’ and focus on exceptions.
My previous journeys to East-Africa made me realize this all too well, and it is one of the main reasons to go back to this area. As an 18-year-old ‘little boy’ I experienced a totally different way of living, which did not even come close to what I expected. I was stunned, met extraordinary people and returned home drained with inspiration. To me, it was the positive energy and vibrant atmosphere that felt sensational.
“If you only watch the news, you will know exactly how the world doesn’t work.” by Joris Luyendijk
Now I can finally return to this area, and put my urban sociology background and passion for cities into action. Investigating East-Africa’s vibrant and changing urban life-style, looking for local heroes and focusing on solutions and opportunities rather than reporting problems.
So to all the urbanites, Africa lovers, city makers and people who love to capture and travel the world; my goal is to inspire you. To give you a feel, a taste and a glimpse of the rapid urban transitions taking place in the East of Africa right now. Wouldn’t it be great to read and see for yourself how people on the other side of the world find their way in the city? How does ‘Jan Modaal’ live in Kampala? How often are Nairobians stuck in traffic?
Perhaps the East African urbanite is facing problems just like you but deals with it in a very different, unexpected or innovative way. I mean we might even learn something here, from them, from each other!
Words and photography by Vince, The Urban Detective