Urbanization and energy demand in Sub-Saharan Africa: Finding collaborative and integrated solutions

On 9 November 2017, the Cities & Regions Pavilion at COP23 hosted three back to back sessions highlighting African voices from local and national governments as well as non-governmental organizations and the private sector.

Throughout the day, three main themes emerged: the development opportunities and challenges posed by rapid urbanization and increasing energy demand across Africa, the need for increased finance mechanisms for local and regional governments to enable them to tackle climate change and support the transition to renewable energy using energy efficient technologies, and the optimization of collaboration across all levels of government to strengthen climate action.

African cities are growing rapidly. According to a study conducted by EU Energy Initiative, the urban population will grow by 24 million every year until 2050. There is increasing demand for affordable and accessible energy across urban and district areas including in fast growing informal settlements where access to established grids is limited.

This combination of the need for increased infrastructure and rapid urbanization, due in part to the effects of climate change that accelerate rural to urban migration, offers the opportunity for local and national governments to embark on sustainable development trajectories, leapfrogging older development models that depended on dirty energy.  However, for this opportunity to become reality, innovative strategies and increased resources are necessary.

Across all three sessions, the need for increased finance mechanisms to tackle climate change in Africa was a resounding call to action.  From solar to biogas, new energy solutions are taking root across the continent, but in order for these systems to be implemented, increased funding must be made available.  Representatives from Uganda, Botswana and South Africa shared the need to secure funding for locally sourced solutions that would serve the basic needs of their residents.

While private sector partnerships are one mechanism to increase financing opportunities, international support and intergovernmental collaboration is needed. The third session introduced the Covenant of Mayors in Sub-Saharan Africa, an initiative that brings together local leaders and supports a model of multilevel governance. Collaboration and coordination between different levels of government has the potential to streamline and strengthen climate action by integrating climate planning and approaches.  This empowers and capacitates local governments to implement the solutions that best serve their residents.

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