Financing sustainable urban development in Africa

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With nearly 90 percent of global population growth occurring in Asian or African cities, the goal of improving the quality of life for the people of Africa will only be achieved by mainstreaming resilience and effective financing mechanisms into the continent’s urban development agenda. 

This was the key message of expert deliberations at events hosted by the African Development Bank and its partners during the United Nations Climate Change Conference held this December in Katowice, Poland.

During one of the sessions themed “Resilient pathways for sustainable urban development in Africa”, Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez, the World Bank’s Senior Director for Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice said African cities with annual population growth rates exceeding 4 percent were particularly in need of resilience and financial support. He observed that: “Many African cities have realized the importance of sustainable development, economic prosperity, and quality of life for their urban populations.”

In Africa, as elsewhere, urbanized locations exert pressure on already vulnerable populations impacted by lack of access to potable water supply, sanitation and waste management, energy supply, transport infrastructure and services, healthy and hygienic living conditions and climate hazards. Adequate mechanisms therefore need to be put in place to tackle the negative fallouts of these challenges.

According to the United Nations, cities are hotspots for global emissions and climate vulnerability. They are also responsible for two-thirds of the world’s overall energy consumption and an estimated 70 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.

Already, with the highest urbanization rates on the planet, Africa’s urbanization rate is projected to accelerate in the coming decades, with the current 1.1 billion population doubling over the next 30 years. More than 80 percent of the increase will occur in Africa’s cities.

Inadequate city planning, inefficient land use, and poor regulatory systems have created an unsustainable model of urban growth that has resulted in unmanaged sprawling, fragmented and hyper-informal cities and all forms of pollution. “This scenario usually takes a toll on forests and other natural ecosystems,” Ijjasz-Vasquez remarked.

“The potential consequences of climate change such as the rise in sea levels and unpredictable weather patterns will increasingly strain the capacities of Africa’s urban systems and heighten their vulnerability,” said Anthony Nyong, Director of Climate Change and Green Growth at the African Development Bank.

“Urban environments are expanding rapidly across Africa, for example in places like Egypt and along the coast of West Africa. Placing our attention on resilient urban planning, we can ensure we will reach the UN 2030 [development] goals, we can ensure an inclusive, resilient and sustainable urban environment. And we can improve our resilience to climate changes,” Nyong said.

Integrated urban planning is urgently required, Nyong further remarked, noting that African cities need effective planning and financing strategies to realign their growth trajectories onto a more sustainable, resilient, and inclusive path administrators now have an opportunity.

The African Development Bank, Africa’s foremost development finance institution is in the driving seat of continental efforts to stem the effect of climate change on the continent, ensuring a developmental path that is sustainable and resilient to various shocks while ensuring the highest possible quality of life for current and future citizens of the continent.

As part of efforts to identify and implement sustainable models of urban growth in Africa, the Bank is involved in the Global Platform for Sustainable Cities (GPSC) initiative, launched in 2016 by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to bring global environmental benefits to cities.  The GPSC promotes sustainable urban development through three pillars, namely, sustainability indicators and tools; integrated urban planning solutions; and municipal finance.

Implementing agencies of the GPSC include the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

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