International Science Council
Approaches to providing sustainable energy in cities have generated considerable interest in academic and policy circles. The development of this body of work, however, has not shed much light on the modes of intermediation that are needed to reconfigure urban energy systems towards sustainability in energy-poor countries. This paper focuses on the role of academics as knowledge intermediaries who can trigger cross-sector collaborations around innovations for a sustainable energy transition in African cities. The research presented here was generated by an interdisciplinary research team made up of partners in Kenya, Uganda and South Africa. The research partners set out to better understand how sustainable energy transitions can be achieved through collaborative efforts between community members, experts and policy actors in the three countries. This paper provides evidence-based reflections on how the research partners used participatory methods to facilitate solution co-design and knowledge co-production over a period of two years under the Leading Integrated Research for Agenda 2030 in Africa (LIRA 2030) program. A key knowledge outcome of the research partnership is an improved understanding of how transdisciplinary research across the sub-region can be used to unearth the socio-spatial, cultural and political dimensions of energy in relation to other urban services such as health and housing. Based on this understanding, the paper proposes transdisciplinary co-design as a promising approach to providing sustainable energy in urban informal settlements in Sub-Saharan Africa.