🗞 Getting creative to build Africa’s future cities

African engineer Caroline loves solving problems to bring people water – and a smile!

Caroline grew up in Kenya, in east Africa. She wanted to be an engineer. People often asked her why – because not many girls at that time wanted to work at building things like roads and bridges.

But Caroline knew what she wanted. And now she says she loves her work because she is helping people – and they thank her with their smiles.

Caroline gives us a smile        © DR/EIB

Now, if you live in Europe or North America, or other parts of the world that we consider rich and “developed”, you might not think very much about the kind of things that Caroline builds in Africa. You might never have really thought about someone actually having to design them.

Can you think what it might be? You use this every day, several times, inside your home…

The flow of life

Well, it’s your water supply – the water that comes out of the taps for us to drink, to cook with and wash in. And the water we flush away in the toilet. Do you know how all that water works in your house? In your town?

If you always have water, you probably don’t give it much thought. But can you imagine what life would be like if you didn’t have it. How would you drink? Wash? What would happen in the toilet?

Those are problems for millions of people around the world, especially in Africa. There has been great progress in the last 20 years but still one person in three in the world doesn’t have really safe access to drinking water at home – and more than half don’t have proper toilets.

That means people get sick. And it’s why one of the Global Goals agreed by all the countries in the world to make the world fairer and healthier for all of us is to get everyone clean water and good toilets.

Global Goal No.6 is to bring everyone clean water

Growing population

Clean water comes into our homes – and dirty water leaves them – in big pipes that run under our streets. In cities in Europe, those pipes can be more than a hundred years old.

But in Africa, where the population is growing much faster (see our story on Africa’s people here) and people are much poorer, more and more people live in towns without all those pipes.

These people may need to walk a long way to fetch water in buckets. Climate change often means less rain – and a longer walk. And a toilet may just be a hole in the earth.

A boy in Uganda carrying water home from a well. Adam Jan Figel/Shutterstock

We’ll be thinking about what it means to help everyone have a good life as more and more of us live on planet Earth when we mark World Population Day next weekend (July 11).

And we can think about Caroline in Kenya who loves bringing solutions – and clean water! – to Africans living in these fast-growing new towns.

Winning at Lake Victoria

She’s particularly proud of a project she has taken part in to bring clean water to people living close to Africa’s biggest lake – Lake Victoria – which is shared among three countries – Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

Caroline is bringing clean water from the lake to about a million people who have no taps at home. She’s also building pipes – called sewers – to take away dirty water from toilets and to make sure it doesn’t dirty the lake – and the drinking water!

She has to find ways to get water uphill, to dig ditches for pipes across towns that are already crowded…

Creative thinking is required for civil engineers … just as much as for the most creative of professions

Caroline Ogutu, water engineer, EIB
Raising smiles

She works for the European Investment Bank (EIB). It is providing money from European countries to help Africans build basic things that they need so that they can work to make themselves better off.

See how water came to Mwanza, Lake Victoria

“I wanted to make a difference and bring some changes to my community,” Caroline wrote this month on the EIB’s website.

“I am more and more in love with my job, because I get to see the faces of people when they have running water—something they have not had since they were born. You become very fulfilled as a human being.”


People need clean water and good toilets to stay healthy. Poor towns in Africa are growing fast and don’t have piped water and sewers.


Get creative! There’s no one solution. Everywhere is different and smart engineers like Caroline find what works for local people.

Grown-ups’ follow-up

You can read Caroline Ogutu’s full essay on her career as a water engineer in Africa here on the website of the European Investment Bank.

Find out how the United Nations is working towards Global Goal No.6 by bringing water and sanitation to Africa.

Lake Victoria still has many problems, including blooms of an invasive weed that damages fishing. Deutsche Welle TV found farmers coming up with an inventive solution…

Alastair editor of WoW!

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