Urban Africa Risk Knowledge (Urban ARK)

Jan 2015 - Aug 2018

Urban Africa Risk Knowledge is an international research and capacity building programme focusing on risk reduction in sub-Saharan African cities.

Niamey, the capital of Niger, is growing rapidly. Urban ARK is exploring the varied vulnerabilities of boys and girls from conflict-displaced and host communities (Photo: Jean Rebiffé, Creative Commons via Flickr)

Urban Africa Risk Knowledge (Urban ARK) is a partnership of 12 policy and academic institutions, led by Kings College London. It seeks to open up an applied research and policy agenda for identifying risks in urban areas in sub-Saharan Africa. 

This includes understanding how urbanisation processes generate human vulnerability and exposure to a wide spectrum of hazards, especially in low-income and often informal or illegal settlements, and how the nature and scale of these risks is evolving in the context of urban growth and alteration, poverty and climate change.

It also includes developing an understanding of underlying factors driving risk accumulation and building a community of researchers and practitioners who can identify and assess risk accumulation and risk reduction dynamics.

Programme focus

Urban ARK aims to respond to three key challenges that hamper efforts to integrate risk reduction into urban development:

  • A lack of basic data: there is not enough information on hazard and loss and on the social conditions that shape exposure and susceptibility to harm. Data is also lacking on coping and adaptive capacities
  • A lack of systematic analysis: we need to look at  the ways in which urbanisation processes influence the social, geographical and temporal distribution of risk and loss in contemporary African towns and cities, and 
  • Inadequate human capacity: a key challenge is the lack of capacity among those at risk, in civil society, government and the private sector, as well as a lack of coordinated effort to reduce risk.

Case studies

Case studies of key cities form part of the work programme. The project is focusing in depth on four cities: Ibadan in Nigeria, Karonga in Malawi, Nairobi in Kenya and Niamey in Niger.

Each of these cities presents different development and hazard profiles. Urban ARK is also working in Dakar in Senegal, Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, Freetown in Sierra Leone, Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Mombasa in Kenya.  

City level research teams and stakeholders, including city planners, community groups and businesses, will define key gaps in data, understanding and capacity. Many of the research and project outputs will be in French as well as English.


The Urban ARK programme aims to develop a community of practice with international research communities and related research projects, so we invite you to visit the main project site and add your thoughts on the community of practice page.


Policy briefs, papers and other useful outputs are available to download for free on the Urban ARK publications page


UK Department for International Development 

Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)


Urban ARK, led by Kings College London, is a partnership of 12 policy and academic organisations. Other partners are:

Abdou Moumouni University

African Population and Health Research Center

Arup International Development

International Alert

International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

Mzuzu University


Save the Children

Development Planning Unit at University College London

University of Cape Town

University of Ibadan

The Urban ARK website was developed by and is hosted by IIED.


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