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Programme Overview

Urban Africa: Risk Knowledge (Urban ARK) is a 3 year research and capacity building programme funded by DFID and ESRC. The programme is led by King’s College London with Professor Mark Pelling as Principal Investigator. The work seeks to open up an applied research and policy agenda for risk management in urban sub-Saharan Africa.

A main objective is to reduce disaster risk in urban sub-Saharan Africa by breaking cycles of risk accumulation. This will be achieved by:

  • Building a community of practice including sub-Saharan, African and international researchers and practitioners that can provide a structured assessment of risk accumulation and reduction dynamics;
  • Developing a detailed understanding of underlying factors driving risk accumulation;
  • Fostering a deep understanding of risk to women, men and children in a diverse range of urban contexts in low-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa;
  • Understanding how the nature and scale of these risks are changing in the context of urban growth and change, poverty and climate change.

Research is focused in depth on four cities – each presenting different development and hazard contexts: Ibadan in Nigeria, Karonga in Malawi, Nairobi in Kenya and Niamey in Niger. We also work in Dakar, Senegal and Mombasa, Kenya. The cities offer broad regional coverage, a range of city population sizes and in-land and coastal locations. 

The work highlights urbanisation processes that generate human vulnerability and exposure to a whole spectrum of hazards. Focus is on those at risk, especially in low-income and often informal or illegal settlements, but also on large scale planned urbanization projects and how these reshape the social and environmental geographies of cities and consequent risk profiles.