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Open Call

We are looking for partnerships between UK SMEs and South African and Kenyan organisations to provide innovative technology solutions to real city challenges.

Why are we running the Open Call?

Rapid urbanisation provides great opportunities for African cities and their citizens, but also serious long-term problems if not managed well. To find sustainable, long-term solutions to African challenges, Connected Places Catapult invites UK SMEs to form Equitable Partnerships with South African or Kenyan organisations to develop a collaborative, innovative technology solution to a city challenge which has been identified in the South African cities of Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban; and the Kenyan cities of Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Urban Links Africa Open Call has been adapted to reflect the new reality of connectivity and travel. Connected Places Catapult will now support up to 15 UK and South African / Kenyan partnerships to develop their technology solutions via the online platform, with additional support from experts and key stakeholders. Successful partnerships will benefit from funding to help them develop their technology solution to the selected urban challenge. They will also be able to access a powerful network and receive significant project exposure.

The Open Call process will run over eight weeks and consist of support and partnership-building activities. We are looking forward to many exciting applications!

How to apply

City challenges

Following conversations with city stakeholders in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban, we have finalised three urban challenges – one for each city. Summaries for each challenge are provided below, along with background information and considerations to help you with your proposal.

The key challenge for Cape Town focuses on how to create an innovative technology solution to build resilience in informal settlements. For Durban, we are seeking technology solutions to the issues around solid waste management and pollution; and in Johannesburg we are looking for technology solutions around sustainable mobility.

Cape Town – Building Resilience in Informal Settlements

Informal settlements are locations where repurposed housing materials can leave communities exposed to the spread of fire; the provision of basic services like sanitation, electricity and water is often patchy; and where many individuals remain disconnected from economic opportunity.

In previous years, informal settlements would have been known as slums and seen as an inherent problem. Today, attitudes have shifted towards viewing communities who live in these settlements as part of the city system, contributing to life elsewhere in the city. They are increasingly recognised as places of creativity, resourcefulness and innovation and a vital part of the city’s ecosystem: places where complex urban solutions, like recycling systems, develop organically, and new businesses are formed every day. There is now a will to support communities in informal settlements by working with and building from what is there, rather than trying to remove and replace it.

Whilst informal settlements are characterised by low income and a lack of resources, they exist at a significant scale across South Africa and the world. A low-cost and efficient solution that helps the communities of informal settlements in Cape Town to live healthier, safer and more productive lives will find potentially huge scope to be replicated elsewhere.

How might we

  • Use technology to find a way to ensure the delivery of basic services and infrastructure through leaner, more flexible and cost-effective methods?
  • Address issues of accessibility via technology, so that the services and infrastructure required can be implemented and maintained within the communities?
  • Find a technology solution to empower residents and communities to understand how to share data in ways which benefit them?

Important downloads for you

Full Challenge Report

Durban - Solid Waste Management and Pollution

eThekwini (Durban) is the largest container port city in Sub-Saharan Africa and one of the continent’s key strategic gateway cities for trade and logistics. It is also a city of outstanding natural beauty, with an important tourism sector, focused on the city’s stunning beach. However, not everyone benefits from these vital economic assets.

Factories, mills, the airport and port in the city’s south industrial basin are highly polluting. Communities who locate close to these areas in search of jobs are exposed to poor air quality and sometimes even toxic air, which can lead to severe health and respiratory implications.

Across the wider city and region, solid waste management systems remain inefficient and non-circular. A lack of incentives to encourage waste segregation and infrastructure to support recycling activities leads to an over-reliance on landfill and the dumping and burning of waste in non-designated areas. Much solid waste ends up in waterways in and surrounding the city and, eventually, into the ocean, where it washes up on the beach. Several subsystems deal with waste: publicly provided services that serve residential communities, private companies dealing in construction and industrial waste and informal waste pickers that operate in between, but they tend to operate in unconnected ways.

Circular approaches to waste management and polluting industry represent a great opportunity to improve public health, preserve the natural environment, and diversify the economy to provide citizens with much-needed jobs.

How might we

  • Find a tech solution to increase the value of different types of waste, to incentivise sorting, repurposing and recycling of different forms of waste?
  • Use technology to reduce waste altogether, promoting a more circular approach?
  • Collect, sort and integrate different streams of data regarding the generation of waste and current management practices?

Important downloads for you

Full Challenge Report

Johannesburg - Sustainable Mobility

Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa with a population of 3.8 million people. Although a major economic hub, the city struggles with the legacy of apartheid. The distribution of people and places reflects a planning scheme that is no longer relevant, which has widespread effects on activities, travel and services in the city. Urban planning and transport issues result in people being separated along economic lines, which, in turn, means that social and city services aren’t evenly distributed.

Urban sprawl is particularly severe in Johannesburg. Businesses that provide jobs and vital services are often located far away from where people live, making them inaccessible for people who are under-employed and looking for work and who don’t have a private, motorised vehicle. A lack of integration between existing transport systems, high costs and fears of safety of commuting by public transportation, and a car-first culture are issues that worsen these conditions.

Creating more efficient and sustainable mobility solutions in the city are part of the municipality strategy to spatially redesign Johannesburg in ways that improve the economy, provide greater  access to services and help create a better quality of the environment for citizens.

How might we

  • Use technology to re-balance the current reliance of many inhabitants on highly polluting personal vehicles?
  • Find an innovative tech solution to encourage wider usage of public transport routes and sustainable transport options?
  • Improve the effectiveness of transport planning using data?

Important downloads for you

Full Challenge Report

We have identified four key challenges, which can be addressed across the three selected cities of Mombasa, Kisumu and Nairobi. These are:

  1. Solid waste management
  2. Flooding
  3. Wastewater management
  4. Traffic management and active mobility.

Summaries for each challenge are provided below, along with background information and considerations to help you with your proposal. We have used individual cities to illustrate each challenge.

1 – Solid Waste Management

Kenya has urbanised, but the city’s solid waste management has been unable to keep pace with the increase in demand. Formal systems use inefficient collection methods, outdated management technologies, and rely on insufficient infrastructure and inaccurate data regarding waste generation. Additionally, they tend to exclude many communities and citizens, whilst solid waste processing is still characterised by low levels of recycling. This results in dumping and burning of waste across the city in non-designated areas and an over-reliance on centralised landfill sites.

Nairobi case study

Nairobi for example has an issue with solid waste management. Increasing urbanisation, rural-urban migration, rising living standards and rapid development have resulted in increased solid waste generation. The city now produces more waste than its current systems can deal with.

While 95 percent of Nairobi’s waste is potentially reusable, only 5 percent of waste is recycled.
Only 33 percent of waste produced is collected for disposal at Nairobi’s only official dumpsite.
The rest is dumped illegally in dumpsites, is left next to houses, or is burned.

Poorly-managed and illegally-disposed solid waste pollutes the air, water and soil, causing significant health and environmental problems. The issue is exacerbated in many low and middle-income areas due to high population density and a lack of infrastructure and service provision.

How might we

  • Reduce reliance on centralised landfill sites to process solid waste produced across the city?
  • Incentivise the segregation and recycling of different solid waste streams at a larger scale?

2 – Stormwater Drainage & Flooding

Flooding is an increasingly common natural disaster that affects Kenyan cities. New roads and buildings aren’t always built with adequate drainage systems that can deal with the volume of water that falls during periods of high rainfall. This often means urban waste blocks drains and causes public health risks.

Nairobi case study

Polluted flood waters, impassable roads and submerged informal settlements are common in Nairobi when it rains heavily. Flooding makes it hard for people to get around the city and access basic services, plus it damages property.

As drains are often blocked by urban waste, water can’t drain away properly, making the problem even worse. Citizens would benefit hugely from ideas to help authorities to plan for and deal with heavy rain.

How might we

  • Facilitate the decentralisation of treatment options to serve a wider array of citizens and communities?
  • Enable the treatment of wastewater with affordable technologies in a way that allows it to be re-used in other vital services?

3 – Wastewater Management

Many city dwellers in Kenya lack access to water and improved sanitation facilities, and are disconnected from formal sewerage systems. Despite a low per capita availability of water, Kenya recycles very little wastewater. Current methods of both water supply and wastewater treatment rely on large, centralised infrastructures and treatment facilities to collect, process and transport water and wastewater over long distances. These are inadequate to the needs of many urban citizens (as well as the natural environment), who require more agile, decentralised solutions, that are accessible to or embedded within their communities.

Mombasa case study

Centralised treatment facilities for sewage in Mombasa serve only 15 percent of the population and only half of the city’s low-income residents have access to improved sanitation facilities. 75 percent of Mombasa’s designated water supply goes to waste after use, despite the fact that up to two thirds of the city’s residents have no access to affordable, safe water supplies

The development of innovations that use and recycle limited water resources will help to address both impacts of water provision and the leakage of wastewater into the natural environment, which all of the city depends on.

How might we

  • Facilitate the decentralisation of treatment options to serve a wider array of citizens and communities?
  • Enable the treatment of wastewater with affordable technologies in a way that allows it to be re-used in other vital services?

4 – Active Mobility

Up to 60 percent of trips in Kenyan cities are taken by foot, yet most roads are designed and built for motorised vehicles.  Planning systems and facilities neglect non-motorised mobility, so cars, trucks, motorbikes, cyclists and pedestrians often share the same space and infrastructure, with little separation or organisation between them.  This compounds issues of congestion that slows movement across the city for everyone, whilst putting the lives of many commuters, and particularly pedestrians and cyclists, at risk.

Kisumu case study

Kisumu’s relatively new status as a city and its growing population are reflected by its patterns of mobility. Congestion in Kisumu looks different to congestion in other rapidly growing cities: there are far fewer large vehicles, but a diverse array of transport modes such as pedestrians, cyclists, motorcycles and cars that share the same space and infrastructure. The interactions between these different transport modes are often chaotic and dangerous, particularly for the majority who still walk to get around the city.

Kisumu provides a unique opportunity for innovators. In contrast to larger developed megacities where mobility systems dominated by motorised vehicles need to be untangled, Kisumu provides some space to design more sustainable and active mobility practices from the bottom up as a complement to the city’s continued spatial development.

How might we

  • Reduce reliance on roads designed for motorised vehicles for those walking and cycling across the city?
  • Make the interactions between motorised vehicles and pedestrians and cyclists safer?

Who can apply?

To ensure we are supporting sustainable, long-term solutions to the seven challenges, we are looking for projects that have the potential to be commercially viable in the market. Therefore, your Equitable Partnerships should aim to develop a solution that is relevant for the South African / Kenyan market, and all solutions should address one of the city challenges that have been identified.

To be eligible for funding, all teams must be formed by an Equitable Partnership between at least one UK SME and at least one South African or Kenyan organisation. The organisations which form the partnership should reflect the country of the challenge being addressed. For example, to address a challenge in South Africa, the partnership should consist of at least one UK SME and at least one South African organisation.

The Open Call has been structured to allow existing partnerships to apply directly or to help you find a partnership and collaboratively develop an application (see ‘How do you apply?’ for more information).

There are two tiers of funding available. The amount of funding you are eligible for depends on the technology readiness of their solution and the maturity of organisations forming the partnership.

Open Call Tier Flow Chart

What’s in it for you?

If successful, you will receive funding to co-develop your tech concept or solution, access powerful new networks and gain expert support from us, which can lead to joint ventures and commercial opportunities in the urban space.

To help you unlock these benefits, we have designed a support programme that allows access to our team’s expertise (including development and testing, business growth support and impact assessment) and that is specifically tailored to the needs of each tier.

Tier 1 Partnerships will receive support to mature their project or service concept by ensuring it is responding to real market need, is attractive to the prospective user or stakeholders and is technically feasible through designing a representative prototype.

Tier 2 Partnerships will receive support for iterating and testing the existing concept prototype for its deployment in South Africa / Kenya, and helping the partnership find ‘product-market fit’ in the South African and Kenyan market.

In addition to this funding and support, the partnerships will have the opportunity to build a uniquely wide-ranging network of African stakeholders, including:

  • Prospective customers and communities that offer unique user insights
  • Challenge Ambassadors and local market experts
  • City leaders and decision makers
  • Large businesses and investors from South Africa / Kenya and the UK interested in urban innovations via our business forum

To find out more about the benefits, download the Project Brief.

How can you apply?

Opening date: 12.00pm (BST) 24 June 2020

Closing date: 12.00pm (BST) 21 August 2020

The Open Call will launch on 24 June and will run for eight weeks. To ensure feasible solutions and equitable partnerships, the Open Call will have two routes for applicants to follow:

Route 1: Apply to the Open Call

If you already have an equitable partnership between a UK SME and South African / Kenyan organisation, you can proceed directly to the full application process, which will be available via the F6s platform.

Apply to the Open Call

Route 2: Find a partner

If you are an SME or organisation looking to form a partnership, please submit a pre-application at B2Match, which will give access to our matchmaking platform. After forming a partnership, you will submit a full application via F6S (as per route 1).

Find a partner
Open Call Process And Timeline

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