How African cities are advancing SDG 11

By Laura Spray, MSc Candidate in Geography at Universität Bonn / UNU-EHS – United Nations University of Environmental Risk and Human Security and Resilient Cities 2017 communications volunteer

Sustainable Development Goal 11 looks at the role cities can play in creating safe, inclusive and resilient urban environments. Four cities in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe are working to achieve SDG 11 on the local level. So what exactly are they doing?

Lilongwe, Malawi: Both urbanization pressures and environmental degradation pose challenges in Lilongwe, Malawi. The city council seeks to find ways to tackle these issues, but without close collaboration between the public sector and researchers, it is difficult to understand how climate change will manifest at the local level. To address this gap, Lilongwe has established a new initiative that links universities and local government.

Balantye, Malawi: To strengthen its understanding of the impacts of urbanization and climate change Balantye, Malawi is also combining science with policy-making and local planning. They are drawing on four spheres of knowledge – government institutions, climate change partners and local stakeholders, private partners like agricultural enterprises and global partners such as ICLEI Africa – to bring together important pieces of the puzzle that underpin long term sustainable practices.

Bulawayo, Zimbabwe: In Bulawayo, Zimbabwe – a city with under one million people – city planners and engineers seek to confront issues around their drinking water supply. The city has implemented a participatory approach, in which locals are encouraged to engage in a range of initiatives, such as waste collecting or storm drain cleaning. It is a constructive solution in as the community is able to become invested and engage with their environment on a local level.

Zambia, Lusaka: With a population of around 2.3 million people, Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, deals many with issues concomitant with rapid urbanization, especially the growth of informal settlements. Much like Balantye and Lilongwe, a partnership between researchers and local stakeholders is used to better understand the informal settlement around the city. University students have conducted fieldwork to determine that the best solution is in-situ upgrading, whereby the buildings will be replaced with wood to make them more inhabitable.

These four cities in Southern Africa are unique in many ways, but the issues they face are not uncommon. In order to become sustainable, safe and resilient cities, it is critical that they pursue partnerships that span sectors and segments of society, including academia and the local community.

These cities have relied on a strong link between research and policy in particular, which enables them have access to research and researchers have access to local knowledge. This interaction strengthens research and enables local efforts to be more targeted. This approach holds promise for achieving SDG 11 targets in Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and beyond.

This post is based on the “Local enactment of SDG 11: Reflections from four Southern African cities” on 5 May 2017 at the Resilient Cities congress. 

The contents of this article reflect the personal opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability.

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