Interview with Angelin Zegha, co-founder of M’URBIS consultancy office

CODATU News Thursday 12 September 2019

M’URBIS is a multidisciplinary consultancy office located in Douala (Cameroon), specialized in urban mobility and urban planning that aims to consolidate the local expertise and meet the growing expectations of Cameroon and Africa cities. It was founded by four former students of the Transport and Sustainable Mobility Master degree of Lomé (Togo) set up by CODATU: Hervé Wabo, Louis Batono, Timothée Tchouamou and Angelin Zegha who shares in this interview his background and his professional experience.

Above right, 3  team members, from left to right: Louis Batono, Angelin Zegha and Timothée Tchouamou . Source : Angelin Zegha

CODATU: Can you tell us about your background?

Angelin Zegha: I have a basic training in urban geography in Cameroon. After obtaining a first year of Master degree in geography, I decided to specialize in mobility issues. I heard about the second year of Master degree in Transport and Urban Mobility and I was admitted into EAMAU Lomé for the academic year 2015/2016 (first class of the degree), year I graduated. I am delighted to be a product of CODATU and all the prestigious institutions that work for the success of this Master degree. As a geographer, I work on human settlements and I was quickly sensitized on the urban dynamics whose mobility is an essential factor. Realizing that I am not equipped enough to pursue research on the theme, I decided to specialize and the Master degree of Lomé quickly met my expectations.

CODATU: What is your feedback about the Transport Master degree of Lomé?

Angelin Zegha: The Lomé Master is a high level training, with experienced speakers who have a good knowledge of African mobility. More emphasis should therefore be given to the context of urban planning in Africa, where political, socio-economic, geographical and especially cultural complexities are huge.

CODATU: How did your consultancy firm project come about?

Angelin Zegha: The consultancy firm project was born during our training in Lomé, from several reflections on the future of African cities and the need to promote inclusive and sustainable cities in which ecological issues are at the center of planning precautions. The goal is to accompany African public policies with our technical expertise. So the Cameroonians from the first promotion of the Transport Master degree, namely Hervé Wabo, Louis Batono, Timothy Tchouamou and myself, had begun to mature the idea well before the end of our training. And so we promised to set up this office immediately after our return to Cameroon. Our office of study, called M’Urbis (Mobility and Urbanism), wants to be a force of African proposal to the stakes not only of the mobility but also of the urban planning in a general way.

CODATU: What are your plans for the office? Do you work on local projects or projects from cooperation networks?

Angelin Zegha: The M’urbis consultancy firm is multidisciplinary and we work mainly on transport and mobility issues. Since mobility is a cross-cutting theme, we have expanded our services to urban planning, architecture and environment, which are directly related to mobility. Our team consists of urban planners, geographers, economists, architects, all specialists in urban mobility. This ensures a better understanding of urban issues and a targeted response to each type of problem. For now, we have worked mainly on local projects and we are obviously open to work on projects from cooperation networks. Our goal is to go beyond Cameroon, where we think we can bring something more, a new vision. Moreover, we have a pan-African ambition with all the students of the Master of Lomé. Thus, we aim to integrate all the students from the Master’s degree into this project in order to set up a pan-African consultancy firm and also a network of African experts able to develop research on mobility in African cities.

CODATU: What is your assessment of this experience of having launched this design office?

Angelin Zegha: For my part, it’s a largely positive assessment. We had the confidence of some local authorities in Cameroon and feedbacks on projects already achieved are good. It’s encouraging for the future. Of course, the beginnings are always difficult because it is necessary to be able to seduce potential customers especially when one does not have the decade of experience generally required for the projects. But we remain optimistic because we know that we have the skills to carry out urban projects. That’s why we remain open to all forms of collaboration that could allow us not only to gain experience but also to demonstrate our expertise.

CODATU: What do you think are the major challenges of urban mobility in Cameroon? And what are the future files you would like to work on?

Angelin Zegha: I think the first issue is understanding the concept of urban mobility. Although public policies have come a long way in recent years in this direction, the concept of mobility seems not yet to be assimilated to local authorities and even less so by populations. The other major challenge is the development of institutional transport in a context of the predominance of small-scale transport that generates huge externalities, like major problems on the use or sharing of the public highway between all these modes. The pedestrian space is also used for other purposes. In addition, the production of greenhouse gases is becoming increasingly important. Fine particulate emissions far exceed the threshold recommended by WHO. It is therefore essential to act on this aspect as well. We can also talk about institutional, economic and even social issues.

CODATU: How can we contact you?

Angelin Zegha: Our communication supports are under construction but we can be contacted temporarily via this email address: [email protected]