Making cities resilient 2030 (MCR 2030), a global roadmap to improve the capacity of cites to withstand shock and recover quickly from hazards has been launched in Africa.
The initiative follows a ten-year campaign – the Making cities resilient campaign 2010 -2020 which sought to raise awareness and commitment of local governments and political leaders on disaster risk reduction.
Coordinated by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction – UNDRR, Making Cities Resilient 2030, creates a pool of partners globally, with expertise in urban resilience, disaster risk reduction, climate change and the sustainable development goals.
Cities will be able to tap into these resources to help improve local resilience.
“Cities will be the frontlines to avoid the creation of new risk, reduce existing risk and strengthen resilience, including risks from health emergencies,” said Amjad Abbashar, head of UNDRR regional office for Africa.
He added that with rapid growth in urban population in the continent and increasing impacts of climate change, new patterns of hazard, exposure and vulnerability are emerging and that “the responsibilities for adapting are now falling on local governments.”
Africa is projected to have the fastest urban growth rate in the world. Projections indicate that by 2050, Africa’s cities will be home to an additional 950 million people.
In many African cities, this growth is happening in absence of formal planning frameworks. As a result, the continent has experienced a sprawl of urban settlements characterized by high vulnerability and high risk. These are driven by poor living conditions with a lack of basic social services.
The UN-Habitat estimates that about 47% of Africa’s urban population or roughly 257 million urban residents, lived in slums settlements in 2019.
“In Sub-Saharan Africa, especially, urban population growth has far outpaced capital investment, leading to shortages of infrastructure, housing and access to essential services,” said Mr. Abbashar.
The rising inequality as a result of this rapid growth in urban populations has been made more prominent by the impact of COVID-19 pandemic. Inhabitants of informal settlements have faced heightened challenges in accessing healthcare services and products. Widespread loss of employment income has been registered with informal sector workers being especially vulnerable.
While these challenges are largely similar in most cities, Oumar Sylla, the director, UN-Habitat Regional Office for Africa said this is also a strength as cities can cooperate and exchange best practices for effective response.
“Since hazards and vulnerabilities faced by urban areas transcend national boundaries, taking a regional approach to building urban resilience and establishing effective multi-jurisdictional coordination mechanisms is essential,” he said.
While cities have been frontiers in the fight against the pandemic, they also are frontiers in the fight against climate change.
In the Gambian capital Banjul, COVID-19 has made worse, the pre-existing challenges of food security and climate vulnerabilities.
The mayor of Banjul, her lordship Rohey Malick said, “about two-thirds of the capital city, Banjul lies half a meter below sea level, the Gambia is highly vulnerable to sea-level rise caused by climate variability and change.”
She added that strengthening resilience in capital cities is fundamental in spearheading country-wide recovery journeys and to ensure more resilient and sustainable development going forward.
According to Mr. Abbashar, the responsibility of making cities truly resilient s one that has to be shared and that recognizes the place and strengths of local communities.
“Because communities have the first-hand experience with the risks that they face, they often have a unique insight into how to reduce their own vulnerability,” he said, adding that empowered communities are also more likely to be supportive of government efforts to restrain risky behaviours.
At the core of the making cities resilient 2030 is the approach to reduce risks and build resilience at the local level. Ms. Kobie Brand, Regional Director for ICLEI Africa said the MCR 2030 having been preceded by a decade-long awareness campaign, will be defined by implementation and the impact it creates at the local level.
“The focus is on implementation and action on the ground,” she said.
She added that by assessing local needs, MCR 2030 creates a space for cities to co-develop and co-produce reliable solutions and mobilize resources to improve future disaster responses.
While challenges still exist for many African cities, including physical planning problems, social justice and rapid population growth among others, there are also cities championing a new narrative of resilient African cities.
According to Oumar Sylla, the region can leverage the experience of these cities in helping other cities in the continent to advance much faster in their resilience journey.
“Several of the region’s biggest metropolitans, such as Dakar, Lagos, Cape Town and Durban have developed their own city-level resilience strategies,” he said.
As the implementation of the MCR 2030 begins in January 2021, the leaders envision a new beginning for African cities towards resilience.