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Uganda: 10 years on

Although annually two or three people go out to East Africa volunteering for Richard’s Foundation I haven’t been there since 2009! It is extraordinary to see the changes.

There appears to be less serious hardship, though we didn’t venture far out of Kampala and the countryside is usually less affluent. There are now relief bypass roads circling the city, but the traffic within their boundaries goes just as slowly. And there is a predominance of smart phones which appears to help businesses run. Impressively, Mike Kironde who we started working with 15 years ago is completing his second substantial school campus, an hour outside the city. But with two thirds of the 45 million population under 21 years of age, there is still a burgeoning demand for education with schools struggling to keep up.

There is also the beginnings of an architectural profession and we were fortunate to meet some young practitioners doing excellent work. But the recent statistics from the Commonwealth Society of Architects show that Uganda tops the list in terms of the rate of urbanisation but it is way down at the bottom in terms of architects per head of population.

But it does give us pause for thought as to how we should help the fledgling profession.

I was invited to attend a conference organised by Enabel (the Belgian Development Agency) to speak about sustainable building design. Additionally we have recently been appointed by Enabel to write up the conference proceedings in the form of an inspirational set of design guidelines. They had seen our ‘Uganda Schools Design Guide’ produced ten year earlier, and wanted to produce a contemporary version focussed on sustainable principles. It will be published and available as a digital as well as a printed resource in the summer.

It was great to meet up with John and Paul, our two field officers based in Kampala, and be shown around the work we are doing with partners Build Africa and HYT Uganda. It was also good to think about how we can make our expertise more valuable across a wider range of projects working with other NGOs and in partnership with locally-based architects. One thing is for certain: the need is just as great and the appetite for collaboration even greater.

Peter Clegg, March 2019


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