7 of 17: and the greenest African cities are…

In our 7th article in a series of 17 Sustainable Ideas for COP17, we review the results of The African Green City Index after the press conference today at the Local Government Pavilion of the Climate Change Response Expo. The press conference was hosted by Edna Molewa, Minister of Environmental Affais, Siegmar Proebstl, CEO of Siemens Africa, Delia Meth-Cohn, Editorial Director of CEMEA and the Mayor of Durban, James Nxumalo.

The results of the African Green City Index, a research project by the Economist Intelligence Unit in cooperation with Siemens, were unveiled at the Local Government Pavilion of the Climate Change Response Expo in Durban. The African Green City Index is part of a research series which has to date evaluated the environmental sustainability of more than 120 cities in Europe, Asia, Latin America, Germany the US and Canada and now Africa.

The project is unique is that it considers both quantitative and qualitative indicators which may influence and inform the outcome of the Green City Index.  The indicators were selected with advice from a panel of experts including the African Development Bank, UN Habitat and the World Bank.

15 major African cities were chosen independently and evaluated in terms of their environmental performance and policies. While environmental performance and associated data is crucial in developing an index of this nature, the quality of current and future environmental policies drawn up by cities was also considered to be vital.  It is broadly believed that those cities with good governance and hence good policies would be better off in dealing with Climate Change in future.

The study looked at different environmental categories, such as energy and CO2, transport, water, waste, land use, and environmental governance. The majority of data was collected from publicly available sources for the years 2009 and 2010, with challenges experienced in sourcing comparable data in certain categories e.g. air pollution.

Delia Meth-Cohn, Editorial Director of CEMEA, an Economist Intelligence Unit, believes that the Green City Index should not be considered in isolation and is neither a tool for pointing fingers at cities struggling in some or all of the categories. Instead she considers the index to be a benchmarking tool for cities used to aid understanding by providing insights into the specific challenges. It would also go some way in fostering best practice sharing, by highlighting innovative ideas, strategies and projects that other cities might wish to follow.

Siegmar Proebstl, CEO of Siemens Africa noted the UN’s 2010 State of African Cities which warns that rapid urbanization could be more of a burden than an opportunity, unless immediate and decisive policy action is taken. He further adds that the African Green City Index is also aimed at starting a dialogue about best practices in the area of green policies and infrastructure, which would help cities learn from one another.


The cities were rated according to the 8 environmental categories (as highlighted above), using a subset of indicators. They were then grouped into broad categories based on the average result of all cities included in the study. No single leading city was identified but the relative strengths and weaknesses of each city were highlighted in each category.

 The results were as follows;

Note:  Well above average: 0 cities (Examples of cities previously ranked in this category include Singapore and Curitiba, Brazil)

 It was noted that in arriving at these results, that South African cities and Accra benefited from good governance and sound policies while North African cities were better at providing access to services. Several other results and conclusions are worth noting;

–        Density: Cape Town and Pretoria have the lowest population density of the 15 African Cities, an issue which will need to urgently addressed, if Cape Town aims to enhance its environmental performance

–        Waste: Pretoria generates, by far, the highest amount of waste at 1070 kg per person per year.

–        CO2: South African cities produce CO2 emissions from electricity consumption that is more than 5 times the figure of North African cities.

–        Green spaces: Cape Town was ranked top in this category largely due to its topography and introduction of new green spaces

–        Public Transport: Cairo is ranked top in this category due to a collection of current and future investments in public transport.

17 Sustainable Ideas for COP17 is a collaboration between This Big City and Future Cape Town running alongside the United Nations Climate Change Conference from November 28th to December 9th.