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Urbanisation is remaking Africa

mercredi 10 juin 2020

With so much of the infrastructure of Africa’s future cities yet to be built, the continent stands at a precipice to lead the way in creating smart cities, as they should be. It’s a vision that is not impossible to attain.

While we can all agree that Africa’s most pressing need when it comes to energy right now is to electrify rural areas where people are not on a power grid of any kind, the reality is our cities are estimated to house just more
than 1.2 billion people at the moment and will experience a 4% annual growth rate (according to UN-Habitat). This means that by 2050 around 2.5 billion people will be living in urbanised cities on the African continent.

At the moment Africa only has three megacities (having populations of over 10 million) – Cairo, Lagos and Kinshasa – but that is going to change radically over the next three decades. Already demographers see the Gauteng city-region in South Africa joining the list in the near future. But, the truth is, the wave of rapid urbanisation is happening in the smaller
cities and it is not the size that we should consider, but the rate of expansion. The theory is that 70% of the urbanisation will take place in the small to medium towns and cities.

While it is impossible to tell exactly what those spaces will look like, we can estimate what people will need, and extrapolate how utilities will have to respond to that. Climate change is one of the biggest problems facing African cities. Not of our making. Add a pandemic like COVID-19 and suddenly you are dealing with an issue that not only the city officials but also utilities and all levels of government must factor into its planning. [Ed : Read the article on Crisis Management on page 8]

Anton Cartwright, a researcher at the African Centre for Cities in Cape Town, and a featured speaker at this year’s African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africa in November, has been working in Tanzania and Ghana for the past three years : “Two countries with very different approaches to urbanisation, but both hoping to turn their urbanisation phases into an economic opportunity. Anticipating and planning for the multiple effects
of climate change form a big part of this quest.”

Most African cities (except those in South Africa) are not carbon-intensive, although much of their emissions are associated with charcoal burning, which goes unrecorded, thereby creating a measure of uncertainty about the true level of carbon emissions on the continent. Still, Cartwright thinks
the idea of carbon neutrality by 2050 (as per Paris Agreement targets to limit climate change) is possible. Read more here


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