Working with informality to build climate resilience in African cities

Working with informality to build climate resilience in African cities

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Date: 11th June 2014
Author: CDKN Africa
Type: News
Country: Africa
Tags: adaptation

African cities have the highest growth rates in the world despite sub-Saharan Africa being approximately only 40% urbanised. 62% of Africa’s urban population lives in slum conditions and this is likely to double by 2050. The urban poor, who largely reside in informal settlements and slums, are vulnerable to a range of global change effects, including global economic and climate change impacts.

In light of the threats posed by changing climatic conditions and the prevailing realities of economic and political disempowerment, how might we go about grounding and working with the idea of climate compatible development in multiple contexts so that we can envision and build new urban futures in cities across Africa that are vibrant, inclusive and sustainable?

The African Centre for Cities (ACC) and CDKN hosted a three-day workshop in Cape Town aimed at developing a framework for understanding the intersection between climate resilience and urban informality, and promoting integrated urban development and management within African cities. ‘Champion groups’ from Accra (Ghana), Kampala (Uganda) and Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), which included local authorities, academia and civil society attended.

During the workshop participants visited the settlement of Langrug, an informal settlement where an in-situ upgrading project is being undertaken in partnership between the community of Langrug, the local municipality (Stellenbosch Municipality), NGOs (Community Organisation Resource Centre / CORC, the Informal Settlement Network and SDI), and academia (UCT’s Department of Engineering and the Built Environment and Worcester Polytechnic Institute). A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Stellenbosch Municipality, the community and CORC provides for an Urban Poor Fund, through which resources are mobilised for upgrading work. This project was initiated following a 2010 court order mandating the municipality to improve and upgrade the settlement. This partnership-based upgrading model provides a platform for the community to engage with the local state and play a greater role in local planning processes. Through this community leadership has been enhanced to take ownership over the upgrading and development of their settlement. Communities have led on mapping and enumerating the settlement and its infrastructure. Drainage infrastructure has also been improved to better manage seasonal flooding issues. The project highlights the potential of city-wide networked partnerships between informal settlement communities, sharing technical capacity and social organization strategies that enable large-scale upgrading.

Participants discussed the importance of community engagement in urban upgrading and planning, the need for mapping of spatial areas and residents, land tenure and the status of service delivery in the area. The need to make the case for investment, including financial and social benefits, was also raised. This video speaks to some of those insights and challenges.:

For more information visit the CDKN project page

Image of Langrug informal settlement courtesy of Jean-Pierre Roux


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