The Multi City Challenge is a process by which cities facing common problems pool expertise from residents to discover and implement innovative solutions. We want to hear your solutions to three complex urban challenges in five African cities.

With waste generation expected to grow from 165 million tonnes, in 2020, to 368 million tonnes, by 2040 (UN, 2014), cities urgently need to find innovative strategies to reduce waste generation and improve its management. Increasing population, rural-urban migration, and shifting consumption patterns, are all combining to increase the amount of waste produced, in turn overwhelming the capacity of existing waste collection systems. Companies are also contributing to this issue by manufacturing single-use, non-recyclable, and excessive packaging for most consumer and commercial goods. Governments lack the efficient infrastructure to collect, sort, and manage waste in a timely manner, which is compounded by residents’ low awareness about the need to reduce, separate, recycle and reuse waste. There is the prevailing sentiment among populations that any individual effort to address this is futile. Governments and communities lack the legislative and policy tools to enforce good practices and implement innovative new ones. On top of this, a lack of coordination and cooperation between governments, private sector stakeholders, and city residents, exacerbates the problem and inhibits opportunities for meaningful progress. The final result of these factors is massive amounts of waste that can’t be adequately processed, resulting in dangerous and harmful outcomes like illegal waste dumps, pollution, infectious diseases, and other public health issues.

Among the cities participating in the challenge, Kano State is a participating city with two startups on the list Zero Bola nd Brycoal, in the waste management and reduction category and also the building urban resilience in slums and informal settlements category. Startups were welcomed to send in their ideas and solutions which would be evaluated by city councils and the UNDP, together with the teams at the New York University.

The Multi-City Challenge combines extensive training for public servants to learn how to engage with residents (citizen engagement), with a competition to invite the public to share solutions (collective intelligence), and then a coaching program for residents and public services to develop those solutions into implementable new policies and services. The initiative aims to tackle pressing urban challenges by partnering with the people most affected by these issues – city residents.

Residents in Accra (Ghana), Bahir Dar (Ethiopia), Kampala (Uganda), Kano (Nigeria), and Mutare (Zimbabwe) will be invited to develop solutions to three problems the cities are collectively confronting: digitalizing the informal economy, building urban resilience, and improving waste management. Public servants will participate in an extensive training curriculum beginning this week focusing on problem definition to define the challenges precisely and with the benefit of data.

Among the startups that participated in the challenge in Kano was Brycoal Nigeria limited, a waste management and renewable energy startup, the startup participated in the waste management and waste reduction category, their unique solution focuses on utilizing farm waste generated in farms and market places across the city to produce sustainable charcoal substitutes for cooking and heating in households. Brycoal is also a portfolio startup in the prestigious Startup Kano Hub. They emerged as the overall winner of the Multicity Challenge waste management and waste reduction category, they would be awarded on the 22nd February 2021 and would subsequently be working with the UNDP and the Kano state government to fully implement a pilot of the solution in the City.

Here is the congratulations message the Brycoal team got.

As a Multi-City Challenge winner, your idea has passed three selection stages: first, it was among the 20 best voted ideas under this challenge by the general public in the open evaluation stage. Then, out of these 20, it was among the best-rated ideas by a team of local and international thematic experts. Finally, it was evaluated for its feasibility and desirability by all city councils participating in the reducing waste generation and improving waste management challenge. To win, your idea had the best overall evaluation from experts and participating city councils