The Okavango project:

“Our population and our use of the finite resources of planet Earth are growing exponentially, along with our technical ability to change the environment for good or ill.”

— Stephen Hawking

Our goal is to improve local, national and regional capacity for economic growth through innovative environmentally safe built assets within the African continent and proactively prepare for a massive increase in population and climatological effects on local communities.

How we will do it:

In the Okavango Delta in Botswana, we will build a research facility (“The L.Lab”, The African Living Lab) which will be combined with an education centre (“The a.school, The African School of Design and Engineering”) to study the co-existence of people, animals and the environment with the ultimate goal of improving sustainable living and strengthening the societal fabric in Africa.

The L.Lab will host a business incubator which will be used as an engine for societal and technological transformation in the region. In addition, the a.school will build the necessary local capacity and expertise to develop smart and affordable technology solutions to address challenges caused by climatological and demographic change. This can be achieved by bringing local and international knowledge together. We aim to reconfigure the built environment and infrastructure grid towards sustainable living.

The L.Lab will facilitate a co-creation and community consultation process to design and build self-sustainable communities that are connected through smart infrastructure and that leave a zero or even positive environmental footprint through regeneration. To validate the co-creation and consultation processes, initially up to 25 proof-of-concept homes will be built. This model habitat will be designed to be in harmony with the surrounding environment addressing regional challenges such as the human-wildlife conflict, food and water security issues, unsustainable urban development and wasteful land use (e.g. sprawl) and other environmental and climate change-related threats.

The gained experience of the co-creation development, design and execution of the model habitat within the L.Lab will lead to a scalable and adaptive process to further sustainable living in the region and in Africa as a whole. The a.school will be the backbone for providing local capacity and expertise. This process will change the urban development towards a sustainable built environment fulfilling the fundamental needs of the people.

Our process-oriented framework will support the government’s vision to build Botswana’s knowledge economy of the future. In that spirit, our vision is to support Botswana’s future based on a knowledge-based workforce that will develop and build their homes and infrastructure and who will produce food through, for instance, robotically enabled vertical farming and cultivate common agricultural land using Artificial Intelligence supported technology, sensors and drones that monitor and identify the most suitable crops for different types of soil.

We will together with international scientists draft a blueprint of the necessary assets and infrastructure that will support our proposed a.school and L.Lab and will design plans for Botswana’s data driven, flexible and agile smart multi-generational sustainable communities of the future.

Okavango project milestones

Set up of a local organization

A local office will be the first step towards the realization of this ambitious project. Local representation and networks are fundamental particularly to start the co-creation and consultation process with local agencies and other external stakeholders including the local public. The project office will start with a small group of people preparing the fundamentals of the project, which are among other things:

  • Establishing a local network of stakeholders, universities, governmental and non-governmental institutions and citizens which have strong interest in the project
  • Developing the a.school concept in cooperation with the local community and strategic partners from leading academic institution globally
  • Developing a L.Lab concept in cooperation with the local community and strategic partners from business, government and civil society
  • Preparing documents, contents and web-presence for visibility and fundraising
  • Develop a fundraising strategy and start an effective fundraising mechanism

Set up an international steering group and management

The local organization must be directly linked, supported and governed by InRES. InRES’ protagonists shall establish an international network of supporters which in the course of implementation will be important for co-creation and further funding. InRES shall be responsible to create and define the structure and “protocol” of the organization. InRES will appoint a full time general manager. Daily management will oversee operations and organize all commercial and organizational issues and linking the international network to the local network.

Get started with the L.Lab

A fast start of the L.Lab will be crucial for the project. The L.Lab is the ‘engine’ of the project with which first and visible results can be ‘produced’ to demonstrate proof-of-concept. Such first results are among others:

  • Definition of project phases including performance specifications of the living lab and comprehensive description of the intended services which will be provided through the lab
  • Collection and compilation of existing information that will support the planning process including zoning, environmental, hydrological and geotechnical, utility requirements.
  • Consultation process with the local population in Maun to identify specific pain points, needs and interests which potentially can be addressed through the services of the L.Lab or the curriculum of the a.school. Alignment of identified scope with our vision and “no-go”/no-negotiable topic areas
  • Consultation process with the local authorities to develop a road map that includes compliance with zoning requirements, approvals (e.g. environmental) and (construction) permitting for the L.Lab including related facilities and infrastructure
  • Development of preliminary design of the assets (physical structure of the L.Lab including related facilities and infrastructure) and co-creation process related to the L.Lab services (e.g. development of specific societal, environmental and technical solutions that address specific local needs including sustainable habitat solutions, capacity building through introduction of apprenticeship/high education programs in collaboration with global industry and universities, etc. – to be developed together with the local population)
  • Preliminary (municipal) review of physical asset design and consultation process including input from global (expert) communities

The local office will organize and promote the co-creation process in Maun. The international organization will organize co-creation activities which will be linked back to the local community. The L.Lab and the a.school will host the required technology to facilitate a global virtual interaction and knowledge exchange process.

The project will be structured in different phases. Each phase starts and ends with a defined Milestone. The phases are connected to a particular level of granularity of the project planning. Before entering a new phase of the project, the level of planning shall be fixed, in order to prevent endless loops of project adoption. Therefore, a specific process must be established and linked to a consultation process of all relevant stakeholders.

InRES steering group shall define the discussable and non-discussable points during the co-creation process. Such points can be defined at each level of granularity.

Implementation phase

The implementation phase begins with the detailed conceptual design.
The following is a preliminary list, which serves as an outlook for important activities in these phases:

  • Schematic design plans, preparation of permit applications, submission to local (land use) agencies (permitting, zoning, environment, transportation, engineering/architectural, TBD), project site plan approval
  • Preparation of construction drawings, specifications, drafting of procurement/contract documents, etc. TBD
  • Preparation of tender documents
  • Contractor selection
  • Construction start
  • Construction management process