Short courses


Development and Planning in African Cities: Exploring Theories, Policies and Practices from Sierra Leone

  • 3 hours per week (12 hours total)
  • 4 weeks


In this free online course you'll learn about urban development and planning in African cities and how to make cities just and sustainable for all.

In the next 35 years, Africa will need to accommodate almost 900 million new urban dwellers. Hundreds of smaller cities are doubling in size every 20 years. Half of Africa's urban dwellers live in informal settlements in precarious conditions, and 75% of these are younger than 35.

In this course you'll explore African cities through the lenses of spatial justice and social diversity. It challenges myths and assumptions about urban development, and demonstrates how different processes interact and shape the development of a city.

This is a FutureLearn MOOC (massive open online course), created in partnership by The Bartlett Development Planning Unit, UCL and the Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre, Njala University.

Who this course is for

The course is open to anyone who wants to learn about urban development and planning in African cities, including those who would like to pursue a career in urban development or planning.

It's suitable for urban professionals who work, or may in future want to work, in Sub-Saharan Africa and want to gain an understanding of how its cities are made and developed.

Course content

Week 1: Introduction to development and planning in African cities

  • What is development? What is planning?
  • Normative crosscutting lenses: spatial justice and social diversity
  • Urban change and the evolution of planning

Week 2: Urban land and informalities

  • Diversity of meanings, values and functions of urban land
  • Formal and informal urban land markets and tenure systems
  • What are urban informalities? Economic and spatial dimensions of informality

Week 3: Governance and planning

  • Devolution of powers and fiscal autonomy
  • Scales: city-level, metropolitan, regional
  • Participatory planning (planning from below)

Week 4: Urban risk, vulnerabilities and infrastructure

  • Understanding urban risk and coping/adaptation strategies
  • Urban health
  • Co-production of urban infrastructures


The course is delivered online via the FutureLearn platform. You should expect to spend three hours a week studying.

You'll read articles, watch videos, and take part in collaborative and discussion-based activities.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, you'll be able to:

  • understand how different processes interact and shape the urban development of a city
  • understand some key development and planning issues in African cities through a justice and spatial lenses
  • reflect upon the tensions between theories and regional processes on one hand, and the complexity of specific urban contexts on the other
  • explain the specific and different roles and challenges of each urban actor in urban planning and development processes
  • demonstrate an understanding of the urban challenges faced by Freetown and their potential solutions

Course team

Dr Andrea Rigon

Dr Andrea Rigon

Andrea is a Lecturer and Director of Studies at the Bartlett Development Planning Unit, UCL. His work focuses on inequalities, diversity and cities in global South. He's also a Founder of the Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre (SLURC).

Course information last modified: 26 Oct 2021, 16:09