Why sustainable cities and communities should be prioritized to address Africa’s challenges —Goal 11

“Cities are systems of systems; that are situated in particular geographies that are defined by historical and cultural processes; and are deeply embedded in regional and national socio-ecological systems, irrespective of what we’re continually told about globalization” ~ Aroma Revi (Director of the Indian Institute for Human Settlements)

In September 2015, the UN provided a mandate to all governments and all people everywhere to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Now, If truly our cities are lively hubs for ideas, commerce, science, productivity, designs and lots more; then why are our cities still being faced with the burden of pollution, anthropogenic induced disaster, flooding, declining infrastructure, lacks of basic services and amenities among many “wicked problems” that we face. (“wicked problems” as coined by urban planner and designer Horst Rittel) Why?

Globally, about 3.5billion people are living in the cities and 1-1.5 billion in slums and still on the rise. If you consider Africa in this category, the story remains gory, yet, it can get better.

Africa is still where about two-thirds of the future demand for buildings and infrastructure are yet to be met. In the next 10 years, how is Africa able to ensure adequate access to safe, green and affordable housing with embedded basic services, upgrading of slums and providing social contract for the underserved and vulnerable? In a recent report published by Bloomberg ahead of the opening of Africa’s office of Global Center on Adaptation, It said, “Africa may need 200Billion USD per year for climate by 2070”. Not many Africa nations has Climate Change Adatation plans for their municipalities or Local Government – this is indeed an early warning signal to be addressed.

For Africa to effectively achieve sustainable cities and communities, the following asymmetrical problems need to be addressed: 1) the artificial divide between the rural and urban – RURBAN painting pictures of cities and towns and the countryside in contest when it appears that cities cannot survive on their own without food and other supplies that largely come from rural areas. 2) The continuous anthropogenic pressure on the environment, 3) the clamoring needs of vulnerable millions of people especially those who live in poverty, insecurity and deprivation every living day of their life and 4) unbridled and unsustainable consumerism behavior.

It is imperative that Africa, through the African Union and respective member states be scientific and granular, work assiduously with priority and urgent sense of purpose, prioritize the following: 1) improve urban governance and financing for sustainable development and early warning systems, 2) Increase urban and rural productivity and reduce RURBAN poverty and inequality, 3) enable RURBAN inclusion and safety; 4) Provide universal basic services, climate resilient housing and infrastructure; 5) Protect the RURBAN environment, 6) mainstream disaster risk governance to reduce risk and vulnerability 7) Provide sustainable and affordable housing for all.

By these measures, we would have created the neighborhoods of the future that is resilient, vibrant, resource-efficient and humane (to borrow Rob Bennett’s words) – this are the unique specs befitting of thriving cities and communities, deserving of #TheFutureWeWant.

**Above paper was presented at the ‘Turn Up 4 SDGs’ as part of the SDGs Action Campaign, and in celebration of the 2020 Global Week to #Act4SDGs organized by We for Good International on September 24, 2020.



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