Amidst the conflict and violence plaguing West Africa, especially the emerging trend of coups, Nigerian architect, planner, and scholar Stephen Ajadi from the University of Cambridge is emerging as a beacon of hope in times like this when the future of safety in the African city in question.
His pioneering methods and strategies for assessing urban vulnerability to conflict hold immense potential. Combining his roles as an architect, planner, and development economist, Stephen’s innovative approach blends ethnography and spatial analysis in ways that are not common yet. By uncovering the susceptibility of larger spaces to conflict and violence, his Ph.D. study reveals emerging ways to bolster resilience across different areas.
With a focus on African urban zones, his extensive ethnographic studies, encompassing over 7,000 physical personal interviews, have stretched the boundaries of conflict theory, methodology, and policy, especially in the context of African cities. By translating his findings into practical solutions which he has started through public social and infrastructure engagement in parts of the Sahel, he is slowly but steadily starting to catalyze positive transformations in select African locations.
Thus, paving the way for safer urban environments, particularly in West Africa. Stephen’s exceptional contributions have garnered him the esteemed 2023 Ph.D. CSAR Award from the University of Cambridge, confirming his recognition for research excellence and outstanding potential for real-world impact…earning praise from scholars and the general public.
Stephen Ajadi is not just a scholar; he’s also the driving force behind RUBAN Office, an international architecture firm with offices in cities across Nigeria and Uganda. He founded the Cambridge Initiative for African Urbanism (CIAU), a research group at the University of Cambridge dedicated to studying African cities. Furthermore, he established the Penumbra Space Foundation, an NGO aimed at developing physical and social infrastructure for those affected by violent conflict. As a land economist, he has raised nearly $150,000 in land and finance value towards this effort.
Through these various platforms, Stephen has played a pivotal role in creating safer rural and urban spaces. He conducts workshops, designs and constructs new safe open spaces, educates market traders on spatial awareness, and orchestrates high-level research collaborations. His work proves that research can genuinely enhance people’s lives even in the face of daunting challenges like conflict and violence. His research is continually expanding its scope and impact. Stephen believes that it’s possible to develop safer African cities with the right methods and policies, particularly if new spaces are designed with conflict resilience in mind from the outset.