Geography Lecture Series


central role of science and robust data sets as a means for advancing sustainable

development has gained traction across science and policy communities globally.

Furthermore, strengthening the science-policy interface in ways that link scientific

knowledge production and societal problem solving requires both inter-disciplinary

collaborations, as well as collaboration between researchers and extra-scientific actors.

The paucity of data and understanding of the distinctive dynamics shaping Africa's

urban transition provide an increasing impetus for engaging alternate and inclusive

knowledge partnerships. Whilst the number of knowledge collaborations across African

cities is increasing steadily, critical engagement with the practice of transdisciplinary

approaches and the potential these alternate knowledge configurations might have for

steering Africa's urban future(s) is limited. Drawing on the application of transdisciplinary

approaches across 11 projects from the Leading Integrated Research for Agenda

2030 in Africa (URA 2030 Africa) programme on Advancing the implementation of

SDG 11 in cities in Africa, this paper provides insights into the role of transdisciplinary

approaches in bridging between local projects and global agendas. Evidence from the

LIRA programme illustrates a positive relationship between carefully and purposefully

constituted project teams who engage deeply with local contexts and the relevance

of the resulting interventions. The common but differentiated experiences across

the LIRA projects make it clear that the future of African urbanism is not singular

but differentiated according to different local contexts. These projects simultaneously

address the conceptual and service delivery deficits in local areas, whilst highlighting

blind spots in global policy agendas that are misaligned to the complexity of African

cities. The significance of transdisciplinary approaches that link the "what" to the "how"

of urban change, is found to be critical in data poor post-colonial contexts, which are

urgently in need of evidence-based policy reform shaping the reconfiguration of service

delivery mechanisms. Finally, the significance of transdisciplinary research by early career

scholars in and of Africa serves to shift the political economy of research on Africa,

contributing to the transformative potential of urban experimentation in bridging between

the global and the local.