First blog: What is The Urban Detective? Why? And how you could help him out!
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.
A three months tour through the heart of East-Africa will be my first adventure. In this very first blog, I present you the what’s and why’s of my upcoming journey and how could help me out.
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 followed. 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.
In every place I visit, I will investigate what challenge(s) this city or village is facing. And especially: 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 mobilisation of their rapidly growing number of residents? Social inclusion questions related to coping with the massive diversity that characterise cities. Housing, sustainability, new economies, you name it. 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 is 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.
My goal is to discover inspiring people and projects within rapid urban transitions and reveal their stories. By means of beautiful imagery, well-investigated research blogs, and striking videos, I will try to inspire all urbanites around the world.
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 urbanisation. Cities are growing at a tremendous pace, Africa is urbanising 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’. Together with the generalising mind, they shape our idea of how the world looks like, which will likely be more negative and less accurate than reality. I love the way research journalist Joris Luyendijk puts is: “If you only watch the news, you will know exactly how the world doesn’t work.”
My previous journeys to East-Africa made me realise this all too well, and it is one of the main reasons to go back. 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.
Now I can return to this area, which has some of the greatest urban challenges on the planet. As a true urban detective, I will investigate and document the way people actually deal with those challenges. Focusing on solutions and opportunities rather than reporting problems. Because honestly, we hear plenty of ‘those’ stories every day.
Check me out, help me out!
So to all the urbanites, Africa lovers, city makers, friends, family 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!
This is the plan and at the same time a dream that 'would' come true! 'Would', because I could really use your help! If you support my dream or cannot wait to find more about the East-African urbanites, you can help realize my journey by making a donation right here. Well if you made it this far, it already shows some dedication! Thanks already, you won’t regret it!