On 28 July, ICLEI Africa, the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Coalition for Urban Transitions (CUT) came together for Africa Cities and Built Environment Day.
Held under the banner of Race to Resilience, the day included three sessions that showcased groundbreaking action aimed at building resilience and fostering adaptation in Africa.
Building urban water resilience in African cities
This event featured a presentation from the authors of a new WRI report, Water Resilience in a Changing Urban Context: Framing Africa’s Challenge and Pathways for Action, and was followed by a roundtable discussion with speakers from WRI, the OECD, ICLEI, and WaterAid on how to build upon the report’s framework to develop a joint agenda for COP26 and beyond.
Cities in Africa face escalating water-related challenges, compounded by worsening climate change and rising urbanisation. Water insecurity threatens economies, livelihoods and the health and wellbeing of billions. Smart, systematic investments in urban water resilience ensure that communities have safe, reliable and affordable water, and that water resources are protected through disaster preparedness and water-sensitive infrastructure.
The session highlighted four priority pathways for action:
- Plan for water: mainstream risk-informed land management and water-sensitive urban development
- Prioritize the most vulnerable: increase equitable access to safe water and sanitation
- Create change at scale: develop innovative institutions and pursue partnerships for water resilience
- Get finance right: increase and align water-resilient investments across sectors
The session focused on opportunities in relation to these pathways, the need for systems change for water resilience, and the opportunities for collaboration within and between cities to find the best solutions to systemic issues such as urban water planning, land use and spatial planning, and a green, inclusive and water-sensitive recovery from COVID-19.
Kobie Brand, Executive Director at ICLEI Africa said: ‘We need to look at water as we do all natural assets on which our life depends: in a systemic way. We must foster multilevel governance – bringing together all levels from national to local – to take hands and work together to support scaled approaches for Africa’s urban future.’
The discussion was pertinent to the work of ICSI’s host organisation, The Resilience Shift, which has supported the development of the City Water Resilience Approach (CWRA), in partnership with Arup Water and Resilient Cities Network. This initiative speaks directly to building urban water resilience and is being used in Africa City Regions as part of the Urban Water Resilience in Africa Initiative.
African Cities Race to Resilience
The African Cities Race to Resilience was launched in the second session and forms part of the Race to Resilience campaign, launched by the High-Level Climate Champions. The African initiative focuses on driving cities in the continent to join the Race to make vulnerable communities more resilient to climate change.
Nigel Topping, UN High Level Climate Action Champion for COP26, introduced the initiative and said: ‘African cities are the key locations of change for delivering the transformations we need to make the lives of billions of people resilient to the impacts of, and adapt to, climate change.’
Jean Pierre Mbassi, Secretary General at UCLG Africa said: ‘The future of Africa will depend on how we address resilience. The continent is under increasing pressure, and we need to gather all forces at every level to stand a chance to fight climate change. Cities Race to Resilience will bring about change in the way that we do business. COP26 will be the place where we verify whether we are serious about this change.’
Other speakers included: Hon Mohammed Adjei Sowah, Mayor of Accra; Hastings Chikoko, Regional Director for Africa at C40 Cities; and Lucy Latham from CDP.
ICSI is excited to support the Race to Resilience campaign as an official Partner Initiative. We are also pleased to support the Cities Race to Resilience campaign, run by the Global Covenant of Mayors (GCoM), one of our Founding Organisations.
Seizing South Africa’s Urban Opportunity
The final event of the day focused on how urban action supported by the national governments can drive decarbonisation and economic growth in Africa, with a focus on South Africa. The event saw the launch of a new report from CUT, Seizing the Urban Opportunity, that outlines the financing gaps for city climate action, and emphasises the great investment opportunities African cities provide. This was followed by a discussion moderated by Savina Carluccio, Programme Director at ICSI.
The discussion emphasised the potential for economic and social benefits from investments in urban decarbonisation and resilience-building, and highlighted financing solutions for low-carbon, resilient and inclusive urban development. It also highlighted the role of national governments in placing sustainable and resilient low-carbon urban measures at the heart of COVID-19 economic recovery packages.
Recordings from the event will be made available shortly.