HealthBridge works with partners world-wide to improve health and health equity through research, policy and action.

Creating Great Public Spaces in Three African Cities


In Africa—like in many other places in the world—public spaces are used for public life, commerce and interaction. However, lack of funds, planning, and maintenance, as well as priority for motorized vehicles, has turned many public spaces into unsafe, unforgiving and unconnected places. Many public spaces are difficult to access, especially for those living in vulnerable situations.

This is especially the case in Kampala, Uganda, Niamey, Niger and Accra, Ghana. There is a significant lack of formal public spaces in each of these cities, particularly in the outlying areas where the slum settlements are located. Of those spaces that do exist, they are degraded, of poor quality, and under constant threat of being developed into other purposes.

To address this issue, HealthBridge implemented pilot public space projects in Kampala, Niamey, and Accra to create improved local policies, plans and designs for safe, inclusive and accessible public spaces.

HealthBridge chose these cities because our local partners have strong, constructive relationships with federal and local government officials. In each case, the pilot park projects reflect a different focus: slum dwellers in Kampala; government officials in Niamey; and children in Accra. In each case we will test innovative solutions for:

  • Conducting a community engagement process that ensures a people-centred approach to the design of the space;
  • Engaging women, children and the differently-abled in the design of the parks;
  • Including multiple uses that meet community needs;
  • Improving access to the public spaces;
  • Developing community-based maintenance;
  • Formalizing the process of citizen engagement into city policies;
  • Raising awareness among the public and decision-makers regarding the importance of public spaces;
  • Strengthening local and national policies that protect, preserve, and enhance public spaces.


Accra, Ghana; Niamey, Niger; Kampala, Uganda



June 2017 to October 2018

Expected Results

The ultimate goal for this project was to create improved local policies, plans and designs for safe, inclusive and accessible public spaces for all. In turn, this will support more compact, integrated and connected, socially inclusive cities and neighbourhoods in partner cities. Our results included:

  • Increased community engagement in all three communities through participation in the meetings, the Minecraft workshops, by offering their time and resources to develop the spaces
  • Increased community ownership of the spaces
  • 72 volunteers contributed 224 hours of volunteer time (12 youth volunteers in Niamey for 180 hours and 60 volunteers ages 3 to 84 in Accra for 144 hours over two weeks of construction) along with volunteer time in Kampala for cleaning the site
  • 34 park improvements resulting in increased number of users for each site.
  • Increased commitment from decision-makers to create, protect, and enhance public spaces