Photoblog: The 2018 African Green Growth Forum

Above, the event hosts: Coletha Ruhamya, Director General, Rwanda Environmental Management Authority – Marie-Chantal Rwakazina, Mayor of City of Kigali – Mohamed Imam Bakarr, Lead Environment Specialist, Global Environment Facility

“From the children of my country to the children of yours. We are one planetary village and we must all share the challenges.” — The Director General of the Rwandan Environmental Management Authority welcomed local and regional government leaders to Kigali with this message of solidarity.

On 26 November, 2018, political leaders and urban subject experts from around the world convened to discuss pressing challenges and opportunities facing cities across the continent. This convening was part of a three-day Africa Regional Consultation Workshop on Sustainable Cities co-hosted by the GEF and the Rwanda Environment Management Authority as part of  the African Green Growth Forum. ICLEI, together with C40 and WRI, serve as the Resource Team for the Global Platform for Sustainable Cities (GPSC) and facilitated ongoing dialogue among participants of the workshop, presenting on several initiatives that showcase sustainable development.

The workshop aimed to provide technical training and opportunity for peer exchange. Presentations and workshops explored topics such as urbanisation trends, climate change, legitimizing or formalizing informal settlements, employing a growing youth population, embedding nature in cities, taking opportunities to “leapfrog” traditional development pathways in favour of novel, sustainable and inclusive urban systems and the need for coordination and integration.

Hastings Chikoko, Regional Director for Africa, C40 Cities invites participants to share the distinct challenges facing their cities, regions and states.

As Mayor Rwakazina noted in her opening remarks, good practices spread quickly in cities. She led with a sense of optimism, highlighting the potential for cities to have a global impact as they are an ideal space for government, business, international organization, civil society and financial institutions to come together.

Dr Mohamed Bakarr, Lead Environment Specialist, GEF Secretariat affirmed the transformative space of cities and observed that there is, “a global recognition that cities are ‘hubs’ of sustainable development and environmental sustainability.” The GEF is committed to moving beyond a sectoral approach, because, as Dr. Bakarr shared, they learned through their GEFinteractions with mayors and municipal leaders that the sector-by-sector approach does not always get at the heart of their need to tackle major challenges of urbanization.

Paul Currie, ICLEI, shares key challenges and opportunities presented by rapid African urbanisation.

Africa’s unique urbanization: the challenge and potential

African cities are growing at unprecedented rates. The United Nations estimated that by 2030, the majority of people in Africa will live in urban settlements. Preparing for such rapid urbanization in advance is fundamental if African cities are to service their populations, build their economies and foster the sense of place necessary in this global era. Doing this in a financially- and resource-constrained world, with increased uncertainties related to climate change and environmental wellbeing is an enormous challenge.

Integrated Urban Planning

The need for integrated urban planning was stressed by both local and regional government leaders and global experts. There is pressing need to understand how different systems interconnect and are interdependent. Dylan Weakley, Senior Specialist, City Transportation and Spatial Planning City of Johannesburg, South Africa shares the difficulty in addressing spatial social inequity, as City of Johannesburg attempts to connect housing with jobs and reshape the city. Here, spatial visualization tools are valuable to explore how the city is changing and track the success of our efforts.   

Shagun Mehrotra, Senior Urban Specialist, World Bank

Multi-level Governance & Multi-stakeholder engagement

Beyond intra-and inter-government coordination, true integrated planning invites multi-stakeholder participation and buy in. Mobilizing both citizens and the business community is essential when planning sustainable cities with limited municipal resources.

However, as one participant noted, “capacity building for stakeholders is the big issue for an integrated approach to planning and implementation…if stakeholders are well trained they could be effective in service delivery; coordination is the tool to leading stakeholders in an integrated approach.” This emphasis on capacity building was reiterated time and again by participants.

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This collaborative approach is also necessary within government. Monsieur Talla SYLLA, Mairie de Thiès, Senegal  shared his experience: “When I became mayor four years ago I was on the opposite political side but understood that the municipality is part of the state and at the level of municipality we must act in coherent, aligned strategy with the state, as they were elected by the people, as we were elected by the people. My city is called the Rebel City as it has been opposing central government for years. I said “enough. We must talk.” Where possible, aligning a local and regional agenda with the national government  can enable access more development opportunities. Pursuing multilevel governance requires dialogue with one’s constituents and political counterparts. With collaboration, cities and regions can access larger funds and larger funds will facilitate more collaboration.

Monsieur Talla Sylla, Mairie de Thiès, Senegal

Harnessing Finance


Freetown Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, Sierra Leone shares her plan to #TransformFreetown, with four pillars: “Resilience ( urban planning, housing), Human development (education, skills, jobs, tourism), Health (health, water, sanitation), and Urban mobility. She stressed that “for the urban future we need a plan. Plans need to be financial. So plans must be well articulated and bankable to bring private sector onboard.  We cannot do this with our own source resource. These projects must fund themselves.”

Exploring novel ways to finance our cities must not overlook some of the most adaptive, innovative and vulnerable contributors to the economy. Yondela Silimela of Morfosis Advisory and Invest, explained that a dismissive attitude to owners of informal enterprises overlooks their important contributions, suggesting we have a false understanding of what private sector means:  “We typically associate private sector as a suit and a briefcase. We do not see informal enterprises as private sector, yet many people are investing 100% of their private equity into their property and businesses. We must change how we understand informal enterprise.”

Freetown Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr


Drawing Nature into Cities


Sustainable cities are multifaceted, politically, socially, environmentally. It is no longer politically, or practically, feasible to argue for the protection of nature in rapidly growing, socially inequitable cities. Instead it is more strategic to argue for delivering services to urban populations and to use nature to do so. ICLEI identifies four types of services provided by urban ecosystems: provisioning services; regulating services; habitat and support services; cultural services. Each of these services provide, often more effectively than grey infrastructure, economic value and social and environmental wellbeing. Finding ways to steward, and draw, nature into cities is important, and support in doing so is offered through two initiatives: WRI’s Cities4Forest and ICLEI’s CitiesWithNature.

John-Rob Pool, WRI, shares insights about urban nature and the relationship of cities and their forests

Waste management and site visits


All of these challenges are best solved through dialogue with one another: “we need to facilitate the exchange and sharing of experiences between cities.” While there is much to do to implement a comprehensive waste management system, Kigali has made great strides by implementing a plastic bag bans and investing in its electronic waste processing facility.

Mohamed Bakkar GEF and Shagun Mehrotra, World Bank tour Kigali’s e-waste facility in Bugesera.

As one representative from Sierra Leone remarked, Freetown is looking to Kigali as a model as an exemplar for waste management: “I’m taking videos to share with my Mayor so we can try to do this.” As one participant noted, “Waste management must first start with regulation at the national level…disseminating the idea that everyone is responsible for waste management at the household level regardless of gender, social status and age.”

Kigali’s experience and vision in addressing waste management was one of the key takeaways for participants who joined the site visit.

A family photo of the event attendees.

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