“the event intends to be the mouthpiece of the 15,000 African local governments.”
The future of African cities is a common feature on the conference circuit, but where does this vision come from and who is leading it? Charlotte Scott reports from the Africities conference in Johannesburg.
By Charlotte Scott
The 7th Africities Summit theme was ambitious. It was designed to connect the available understanding of likely future trends with a considered debate about what needs to be done at the local level. In particular to address the immediate needs of service delivery, shelter, economic opportunities and safe and affordable mobility in African cities and towns.
Driving through Sandton, Johannesburg en route to the Summit, it becomes clear why this area is known as the ‘Golden Square Mile of Africa’. Even on a Sunday morning, the prosperous business, commercial and residential district is still humming. As some delegates humorously remarked, “it seems there are as many construction cranes in Sandton as there are office blocks”. As the retail and financial powerhouse of Southern Africa, the location was a clear reminder of the growth potential for African cities but also of the problematic form this growth will continue to take if left unchecked.
While Sandton’s chrome, concrete and glass buildings house many of the city’s jobs, the majority of the city’s residents live in the south in historically under-resourced areas cut off from services and employment opportunities, compounded by urban sprawl and poor public transport. Historically, the mining belt served as a buffer strip which segregated communities to the north and south from one another under apartheid. The mining boom in the 1950’s led to rapid urbanisation to the north and the simultaneous development of dormitory suburbs in the area south of the mining belt through the forced resettlement policies of the apartheid-era government.
Research done by the Urban Morphology & Complex Systems Institute shows a 100 fold variation in residential density and a 50 fold variation in jobs density between the north and south remains. The spatial mismatch between job and residential density continues to perpetuate the apartheid morphology of the city.
As an important democratic gathering in Africa and simultaneous timing with COP21 – the major annual UN conference on Climate Change – the Summit was similarly themed around Shaping the future of Africa with the people: the contribution of African local authorities to the Agenda 2063 of the African Union. Attended by nearly 2,500 local and regional elected officials, including almost 1,500 mayors from 50 African countries the event intends to be the mouthpiece of the 15,000 African local governments.
Agenda 2063 states:
“We aspire that by 2063, Africa shall be a prosperous continent, with the means and resources to drive its own development, and where:
Cities and other settlements are hubs of cultural and economic activities, with modernized infrastructure, and people have access to all the basic necessities of life including shelter, water, sanitation, energy, public transport and ICT (Agenda 2063 – The Africa We Want).
Sessions focused on key themes of urban poverty, service delivery and informality; sustainability and energy poverty in cities; access to finance through innovation and national or international sources; and inclusivity of women, youth, elderly and other groups through participation.
Urban poverty was a major focus of mostl discussions, often manifesting in the form of informal settlements in poorly located areas of cities and towns.
Key fact: 62% of the urban population in Africa lives in slums compared with 42% in South Asia and 22% in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Many of the development partners present reiterated their commitment to participatory slum upgrading programmes, and lauded the success of some programmes. But there were major concerns about the lack of scaling-up of initiatives across the continent.
Access to energy supply and the sustainability of cities also received close review. A 2011 Gallup study found that a median of only 67% or urban dwellers in sub-Saharan Africa use electricity lines as their source of lighting. While significantly more than rural areas, with a median of 16%, urban dwellers still experience frequent and lengthy power outages.
The share of Africans living in urban areas is projected to grow from 40% to 56% by 2050. Urbanization and the lack of capacity in local governments across Africa is likely to contribute to increasingly inadequate energy provision, inefficient energy use and escalating transport congestion and emissions, with associated economic and social problems. However, the challenges are now better understood, and in some areas successful approaches are being deployed. The Kuyasa Clean Development Mechanism project provided greater energy efficiency and access to solar water heaters for informal households in Khayelitsha in Cape Town, and the Hopefield Home Improvement Project builds on these lessons with an improved finance and maintenance model. World Bank project, Lighting Africa, aims to enable 250 million people across sub-Saharan Africa with access to clean, off-grid energy products by 2030.
A major challenge faced by local authorities is access to finance, whether from local sources, from national government or from international funds. Ian Palmer and Stephen Berrisford showcased their research on the potential of land-based financing for urban infrastructure projects in sub-Saharan Africa. They looked at the nature of urban infrastructure, the institutions involved, an overview of capital financing options and specific opportunities for using land-based finance. Local authorities can increase land values by investment in infrastructure or planning regulations and institute a process to share in the land value capture, thereby financing infrastructure developments.
What is land-based financing? A collective name given to a range of tools by which local governments could expand their revenue base and generate funds that will help them realize their service delivery and infrastructure development. This includes not only land valuation, but also land and property taxation and other means of generating revenue through land and on improvements over land. Source: Global Land Tool Network
Amadou Oumarou, Director of Transport for the African Development Bank (AfDB) said in his closing address to the Summit, “Going forward, the AfDB bank will scale up its financing with more than 50 billion USD planned just for the next 5 years in support of Africa’s transformation with greater emphasis on infrastructure, energy, agri-business, industrialisation and private sector development. Cities and municipalities will indeed be the biggest beneficiaries.
Regarding urban development, the bank is currently putting in place an urban and municipal development fund specifically dedicated to providing technical assistance to support cities and municipalities
“We need to recognise that contributions from the bank and other development partners will never be enough. The financing needs remain huge and ODA alone is not sufficient to fill the gap. We need to devise more innovative approaches.” added Oumarou.
Speaking at a thematic session on the future urban agenda of Africa, Alexander Carius, co-founder and Managing Director of Adelphi, said “The largest investment that we are going to have in the future that touches on many of the aspects included in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is around climate, and much of the investment is encouraged, particularly by the private sector, to feed into the Green Climate Fund with an aim for securing an annual investment of 100 million USD as of 2020. If cities have no access to that, if city networks have no access to that, I think it will be a lost opportunity.”
The Green Climate Fund is a unique global initiative to respond to climate change by investing into low-emission and climate-resilient development. GCF was established by 194 governments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries, and to help adapt vulnerable societies to the unavoidable impacts of climate change. Source: Green Climate Fund
While many of the presenters stressed the importance of developing inclusive, sustainable cities, expensive technology introduced to improve the sustainability of the city can end up excluding another layer of residents. As Dr. Daniel Irurah of the School of Architecture and Planning, University of Witwatersrand says, “income inequality and market forces can combine to mean socio-spatial exclusion in green urbanism.”
Rose Molokoane, Deputy President of Slum/Shack Dwellers International (SDI) asked delegates, “What does it mean when we talk of inclusive participation? Because most of the time when I listen to our local authorities it seems to be they are confusing consultation with participation. They will say ‘We are consulting’ and then when they come to the big conferences they say “We are promoting inclusive participation’.”
One session focused on examples of participatory budgeting in Madagascar, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo where different models have been piloted with some success and has even been able to increase local revenue sources.
In Cameroon the rural municipalities of Batcham and Ezendouan started participatory budgeting projects in 2004. In five years, a Multimedia Centre, a Professional Training Centre, street connections and plans for basic infrastructure have been funded and implemented. In three years the Batcham budget rose by 49 percent.
At the Summit, SDI launched their “Know Your City” campaign to collect and consolidate community-collected citywide data on slums as the basis for inclusive development between the urban poor and local governments. The campaign brings together data and narratives from urban poor communities in 224 cities across the Global South. Molokoane explains that this will help communities negotiate with local authorities and “identify priority projects or programmes that need to be implemented.”
“We are doing it by ourselves,” Molokoane says of residents, “and we want our city officials to really open up and recognise the innovation that comes from the people themselves.”
“If we can create the real partnership, the real dialogue, the real mind shift of saying we (residents) want to [contribute to service delivery solutions], we just need your (local authorities) support.” For the first time, UN-Habitat‘s General Assembly of Partners (GAP) will include representation from grassroots constituencies, including SDI as a co-chair of the constituency, at UN Habitat III next year.
The road ahead after Africities will see local authorities take their commitments to COP21 in Paris, which had already begun during the Summit, to work towards a sustainable and prosperous future for African cities and towns. Next will be the gathering at Habitat III in Quito and the global and local conversation on how to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 11, sustainable cities and communities.
As international heads of state gathered in Paris, the significance of the words of the Deputy Mayor of Paris at the opening ceremony of the Africities Summit were not lost on the audience as he said, “How do we create at city level the conditions to ensure safer, healthier, more sustainable and more inclusive life for all citizens? These issues are at the heart of this forum at Africities in shaping the future of the people and the contribution of African local authorities to Agenda 2063 of the African Union,”
“Paris is probably the most African non-African city.” He said the City of Paris was determined to continue helping African cities build their future.
Hopefully international heads of state will reflect this outlook of solidarity when negotiating development actions (and non-actions) that will impact on the sustainability of- and access to finance for- African cities and towns for generations to come.
- Feature Image: wili_hybrid at flickr.com
- Yaoundé, Cameroon. Image Credit:alvise forcellini
- Edge of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Image Credit: FredR
- Transforming Johannesburg Towards a low carbon and inclusive metropolis presented by Serge Salat, Karen Levy and Loeiz Bourdic at WITS University, July 2014