Fishing at morning

Case Study

By the River

We open the tap, and we expect clean drinking water to flow. We swim in waterways that must be safe and free from bacteria. Expectation has become nothing short of a ‘right’, yet many African cities are facing significant challenges when it comes to maintaining healthy rivers. This natural resource system is under threat – unless a radical shift in thinking occurs.

A collaboration between the World Design Organisation and Nairobi University, with Aurecon tasked with facilitating a design thinking approach, ‘By the River’ is about assisting Nairobi’s people to rediscover the history of their rivers; and empowering people to get involved in supporting a healthy river system. This is foundational and will undergird the implementation of sustainable solutions that will positively impact the city of Nairobi well into the future. Ultimately, it’s only once we have the support of the people whose lives our solutions will impact, that we can design the appropriate solutions to help them claim back the rivers. It’s also an approach that the private sector can replicate across the continent. 

In local culture, the term ‘by the riverside’ carried major significance; life would unfold on the banks of the river, from special announcements to important meetings. It was the perfect forum for a collaboration that earnestly seeks an African solution to the question: what is the desired future potential state of rivers in African cities?

Aurecon understands that environmental discussions around water management systems and developing functioning riverine systems must be rooted in a reawakening of local communities’ deep connection to their cities’ rivers.

Before jumping to solution mode, Aurecon sought to gain an in-depth appreciation of the rivers in the city of Nairobi. This was instrumental in helping us understand the role of the river in the city’s culture and history, so that any projects related to the river system responded to very real needs.

‘By the River’ and other projects like it are key to supporting an ambitious vision for Africa’s riverine systems:

‘In the sub-Saharan African context, the desired state of riverine systems should ideally be one where these systems function as a source of environmental, economic and socio-cultural prosperity… Simultaneously, riverine systems can contribute to the aesthetic prowess of urban cities as well as provide ample opportunities for sustainable subsistence and commercial practices.’ (Aurecon Analysis Report 2016)

Developing innovative solutions through design thinking

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