Action for Walking – The Affordable and Essential Steps to Improve Walkability

16-19 October 2023, Kigali, Rwanda

The 23rd International Walk21 Conference on Walking and Liveable Communities was hosted by the University of Rwanda, in partnership with the City of Kigali and UNEP between 16 and 19 October, 2023.

The University of Rwanda, in partnership with the City of Kigali and UNEP, was proud to host Walk21 Kigali in 2023, the first Walk21 conference on the African continent. 

Together with experts from across Africa and around the globe, we shared insights and expertise on how to develop and implement walking policies and programmes that deliver walkable communities and safer streets, broader community participation and enhances the value of walking.

We welcomed politicians, engineers, campaigners, academics and planners to share their experience and be part of the discussions and activities at Walk21 Kigali.


In African cities, walking is the primary mode of transport for the majority, with up to 78% of people walking every day to access work, education, health care, markets, and public transport.

Until recently, walking, almost everywhere on the continent, received relatively minor policy attention and resource allocation. Walking infrastructure was lacking: most roads had no footpaths or crossings and were poorly signed and maintained. Walking was, for a billion people, difficult, unpleasant, and unsafe and it was children, the elderly, those with disabilities, women, and those with low incomes – who walk most – that disproportionately suffered.

Kigali is leading a growing number of enlightened cities in Africa, that are transforming the paradigm by valuing people walking as a solution to routine road safety challenges, equity imbalances and climate concerns and, at the same time, attracting local and overseas visitors and economic investment.

Supportive land-use, mobility and social policies underpin the principles of a walking experience in Kigali that is safe, accessible, and enjoyable irrespective of income, age, ability, or gender.  The city planners work with the engineers to deliver affordable actions to improve walkability. They are supported by knowledgeable university professors, ambitious politicians, and a demanding local community. The result is a network of enjoyable streets that are walked by everyone.

Kigali’s commitment to affordable actions for walkability is a template for any city wanting to re-define a successful future mobility system; which wants a safe, clean and reliable city that functions efficiently; and that is seeking to attract further investment to grow and be competitive internationally.

The global momentum for more walkable communities is growing.  With the Pan-African Action Plan for Active Mobility and THE PEP Pan-European Masterplan for Walking in development, national governments in 108 countries are engaged in developing strategic direction for more walking in their jurisdictions.

Experts from around the world will gather in Kigali in October to share their expertise and identify the next important steps we need to take to foster communities that support and enhance the walking experience for everyone.


Action for Walking – The Affordable and Essential Steps to Improve Walkability

Walk21 Kigali threaded an understanding of the evidence base into affordable actions with a
showcase of delivered projects that have realised beneficial changes.

The overarching theme of the conference is ‘Action for Walking – Affordable, Essential Steps to Improve Walkability’.

The University of Rwanda is developing a centre of excellence in transport and logistics for conducting research, collecting local data and providing expert training for staff to improve the effectiveness and impact of road safety investments in Africa. Civil engineers, transport planners, the police, architects and urban designers are in collaboration with academics, NGO’s and advocates to significantly reduce the risk of people walking in Africa and save lives. On the continent with the highest fatalities for pedestrians, join us to help form the safe system and environments that will save lives.

Contributions are invited that share relevant walking research, data collection, training systems and other affordable actions that are reducing road danger for people walking.

More than 60% of the population in Africa live in low-income neighbourhoods often lacking access to basic services including water, electricity, and sanitation. But these neighbourhoods can also be very walkable. When improvements are made it is essential to retain this walkability and keep streets safe for everyone, especially children, people with disabilities and the elderly.
In Kigali these settlements are being given footpaths, street lighting, play areas and parks as part of the city’s strategic plan to enable the whole city to function.

Contributions are invited that demonstrate how low-income communities have been transformed to support people walking as a basic human right and the impact that has had on the quality of community life.

Walking is being talked up as an affordable, quick, and reliable solution to help reach several goals including the Paris climate targets. With the promise of new money for mitigation and adaptation Rwanda is exploring what are the most affordable actions that deliver an impact. SDG 11.2 is all about access to public transport but must be more than just proximity, investing in walkable catchments can deliver safer, more attractive access to public transport stops and stations.

Contributions are invited that share how affordable walkability actions are delivering on SDG and climate goal commitments.

Recent research in partnership with development banks has highlighted an opportunity for more packaged investment in walkability projects. As more money is being targeted to sustainable mobility systems that attract future economic growth the banks and national officials are negotiating the best models for supporting walking infrastructure.  How can national policy support local and city action for walking? 

Contributions are invited that share what finance and governance models are supporting walking investments. This could include examples of walking infrastructure, behaviour change campaigns, land use planning, fiscal and regulatory incentives, public transport catchments or capacity building.


The University of Rwanda, in partnership with the City of Kigali and UNEP, was proud to host Walk21 Kigali in 2023, the first Walk21 conference on the African continent. 

The University of Rwanda worked in partnership with the Walk21 Foundation as the host partner and a key connection to the knowledge and skills in science, technology and engineering that support better walking environments and traffic management. The staff team, led by Dr Alphonse Nkurunziza, has a global reputation as leaders of translating the required knowledge into action to benefit the everyday life of citizens and this will underpin the conference programme.


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