This action-research project attempts to critique and propose alternative and more grounded approach to localizing SDGs in African cities, focusing on Cairo and Dar es Salaam. In 2015, a series of international standards and guidelines was formulated by national governments, international organizations and adopted by the United Nations to fight poverty and social inequality all over the planet, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In theory, the SDGs are meant to provide a holistic set of aims to achieve a more inclusive and sustainable development in all regions and cities of the planet. Yet, the development agenda has been criticized for its lack of practical application guidelines and how to adapt these universal aims in a local context. This research project raises the question on how to develop locally based standards to address unequal access to services and mobility in the context of African cities, based on a comparative analysis in Cairo, Egypt and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, it aims to address the relation between formal processes and informal practices in urban services.
Both cities provide us with a unique perspective into the urbanization process intertwined between formal and informal development, and the relevance of the emerging interface simultaneously dividing and connecting both spaces. The two cities, with their varying histories, sizes, regional contexts and modes of development offer a broad spectrum of urban conditions, experiences and variables found in other African cities, and may thus provide a starting point for a broader comparative research in other cities. The project concludes with a set of revised targets and indicators that mediate top-down SDGs with informal practices, and proposes measures to improve local urban standards. The project is supported by the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA): “Meaning-making Research Initiatives.”