Inclusive Cities of the Future: Experiences of Zimbabwe in a global perspective

In cities across the world, citizens are looking for new ideas and ways to solve big social challenges. And Zimbabweans are no different. With a booming population, urban residents in Harare face a myriad of challenges- from air and water pollution, housing, water and electricity shortages, limited public transport, and damaged public spaces combined with high levels of unemployment and poverty. All this amid a context of increasingly limited public budgets, political tensions, a breakdown of essential service provision, disheartened civil society and increasingly complex social challenges- there is an urgent need to think differently and creatively and work in new ways.   

There is a global movement of citizen-led rehabilitative interventions with people looking towards social innovation for new and better ideas to create more sustainable and inclusive cities. The challenge is that the best examples are not well known. This global community does not effectively highlight, connect or support these innovators to come together and thrive. 

A high level workshop

In May 2016, SIX and Hivos hosted a workshop in Harare to bring together local and international experts to explore the opportunities and challenges for building inclusive cities in Zimbabwe. Using learning examples from across the globe, we explored how citizens can be more involved in designing urban spaces and transforming the city into thriving spaces that work for all. 

This workshop built on Hivos Zimbabwe Office’s ‘Inclusive Cities’ project, an initiative that over the past year has researched and located community-led regenerative and rehabilitative initiatives to find new ways to correct the problems that plague urban spaces in Zimbabwe innovatively, creatively and sustainably for current and future generations. From the new mural on Speke Avenue to participatory meeting with key stakeholders in three municipalities- this project has sought to not only to open up a dialogue but also to show what is possible with community- driven rehabilitative projects.


On the first day we discussed how to establish a common language and definitions- what is an inclusive city? What does resilience and creativity mean in regard to inclusive cities? We heard from two urban planners and the Hivos Harare office to hear what was happening in Zimbabwe. Louise Bragge from Urban Space explained how by repainting Speke Avenue in the city centre, it’s now become a lively street for the community, opening up the once closed bridge and connecting thousands of people every day. We then embarked on a city tour led by urban planner Percy Toriro exploring different aspects of the city from a different perspective. 

The city tour in particular has opened my eyes up to a new way of seeing my city. Despite having lived in Harare my whole life- it was a new perspective to view the city from the top of the bus and explore areas that I haven’t seen before. 

On day two we learnt from other cities around the world and focused on practical ways to take this agenda forward to create more inclusive cities in Zimbabwe.

Key discussions: 

  • The conversation at times focused on politics and the difficulty of enacting change across the country. Instead we tried to focus on how we move beyond politics? How do we depoliticise service delivery? How do we move to more tolerance of ideas and views and make our cities and those who work for it work for us? We tried to focus on small-scale change at a community level and learning from others including the Dandora Transformation League in Nairobi. 
  • Who owns the city?  This was a key question in regard to the different stakeholders in the city- is it the informal street vendors? The citizens? The council? Or a combination of all three? How does this relate to the rights of the city and access to public space and public services? 
  • How can we harness the energy, creativity and enterprising attitude of the people to build a more inclusive city? How can we empower more people to create their city? We tried to use the lens of arts and culture to move beyond politics and as a unique way to empower more people 

We created a 15-point manifesto or communiqué connected to the SDGs that others can sign up to encourage practical action to create more inclusive cities around the country. 

This was the third and final gathering in our collaboration with Hivos in our series of work in Africa, helping to connect innovators across the region to each other and to the global field of social innovation.


This two day gathering brought together 30 Zimbabweans comprised of representatives of residents associations, local government officials, creative artists, youth activists, international experts and members of Parliament to explore and debate the concept of inclusive cities in Zimbabwe. Of particular importance was how Zimbabwean citizens living in cities can be more involved in designing urban spaces and transforming their cities into thriving living spaces. We also invited some speakers from previous events in the Africa series for inspiration.