Tag Archives: Johannesburg

Energy and Africities Summit 2015

Mark Borchers from Sustainable Energy Africa writes on  the recent Africities summit, and the role that SAMSET played in advancing sustainable energy themes at the summit.

The Africities Summit is held every 3 years and is possibly the foremost gathering of African local government politicians and officials on the African continent. It is also well attended by national government and other players such as local and international NGOs.

The SAMSET team attended the 2015 Africities Summit in Johannesburg in November, and SAMSET organized a session on Sustainable Energy in urban Sub-Saharan Africa: the Role of Local Government (see the background paper here). It was competently chaired by the Executive Mayor of Polokwane (a South African municipality), Cllr Thembi Nkadimeng, and key recommendations emerging were included in the Summit outputs.

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Panel Discussion, Africities Summit, Johannesburg, November 2015: Source: Mark Borchers

In addition, SAMSET, in partnership with SALGA, GIZ and the City of Johannesburg, organized fieldtrips to sustainable energy installations in the area – rooftop solar PV, landfill gas electricity generation, sewage methane electricity generation, mass solar water heater rollout, and public transport and spatial planning systems (click here for an example).

Overall, however, although our event was relatively well attended, it was interesting to me that energy and climate change did not seem to be a priority in the minds of the majority of attendees. There were a few energy and/or climate change sessions held, and these did not attract much attention compared with many other sessions. Let us not forget that this relatively low level of participation in the energy events is in the context of a great range of parallel sessions of central importance to local governments, such as those around transparent governance, demographics, financial resources, decentralization and relationships with tribal authorities. In addition, the energy related events were not the only ones with unexpectedly low attendance. Nevertheless, it was apparent to me that energy issues were more peripheral to local government than I had envisaged.

On reflection, this isn’t surprising. Dr Vincent Kitio of UN Habitat Nairobi hosted one such energy event at the 2015 Africities, and told me that a similar event he organized at the previous Africities was the first ever that focused on energy. So energy is a relatively new consideration for local governments. In most African countries energy is considered purely a national function, and the important influence of local government on sustainable energy, such as in transport and spatial planning and building design, and the renewable energy opportunities from waste management, amongst others, has still not been internalized by any sphere of government other than in a scattering of pioneering municipalities across the sub-continent.

Yet, as noted by the Cities Alliance “…as long as cities and local authorities are not put in a position to take initiatives and be at the forefront of actions to make African cities more inclusive, competitive, sustainable, safer and better managed, there is little chance that Africa will overcome the challenges posed by rapid urbanization” (Assessing the Institutional Environment of Local Governments in Africa, 2014, p10).

This need to capacitate and resource local government applies to their role in promoting sustainable energy as well, and is of added urgency given the monumental challenge of meeting SDG (Sustainable Development Goal) 7 in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is the area SAMSET is working in, but, given how far we still have to go, many more players and resources are needed to achieve the huge shifts necessary.

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Energy and Sustainable Urban Development CPD Course – Day 4

This blog is part of a series on the Energy and Sustainable Urban Development in Africa course , 17 – 21 November, 2014, University of Cape Town. For more details on the purpose of the course, see this blog.

Day four of the CPD was dedicated to the interlinked themes of urban planning and transport energy consumption, as well as introducing themes on policy planning for urban development.

The day began with two presentations from the technical and policy side of urban form and urban planning. Dr Nancy Odendaal, University of Cape Town began with an introduction on thinking about urban planning, covering the history of urban planning development in Sub-Saharan Africa, from colonial concepts of urban planning to modern considerations, such as dealing with urban sprawl. Urban planning was defined as methodology for societal development, re-imagining an urban region or wider territory, priorities for investment, conservation, infrastructure and land use. Dr Odendaal also made clear the fact that urban planning is not restricted to city planners, and planning occurs in all spheres, therefore it can be clearer to refer to the planning system, rather than planning activities. A different kind of urbanisation, that of modern development, requires a different kind of planning – 62% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa live in slums, and 60% work in the informal economy – 78% in Francophone countries. Informality is no longer the exception, yet city planners often still see informality as illegality.

Professor Ivan Turok from the Human Sciences Research Council continued this theme with a presentation on the current state of urban and urbanisations policies in Africa. A key assumption in planning is that the functional urban form is the foundation for everything else to be built upon, and dysfunctional urban forms perpetuate dysfunctional energy relationships. Despite a wealth of experience in the sector in the region (50 years of projects, 20-30 years of sectoral programmes, 5-10 years of cross-cutting urban policy development), the lack of shared experiences and cumulative learning has led to a lack of integrated strategies, which is a critical barrier for developing effective urbanisation policies. Some counter-examples exist in Ethiopia, with the Federal Urban Development Policy focusing on SME development and job creation for urban areas, and Morocco, where the Integrated Progressive Human Settlements program since 2001 has had a major impact on slum populations. A number of other African countries are developing urbanisation plans in the face of the urban energy challenge.

cpd blog day 4 image MeluParticipants at the Energy and Sustainable Urban Development CPD Course. Image: Melusile Ndlovu

The afternoon sessions focused on transport policy and development in an urban context. Initially linking to the morning’s planning sessions through a brief introduction of the Voortrekker Road corridor upgrading in Cape Town, Herman Pienaar, head of Planning at the City of Johannesburg, presented on the Corridors of Freedom project, and more broadly an introduction to corridor-based transport planning in an urban context. Johannesburg is connecting key economic nodes in the city with bus rapid transit corridors, and in an effort to create system sustainability, is also encouraging mixed land-use planning and a network approach to transport planning in the city. With sustainability and liveability of the urban built form the key goals of this project, a combined whole-system focus is seen as the most effective way of achieving this.

Dr Lisa Kane, consultant and Honorary Research Associate at the Centre for Transport Studies, University of Cape Town, went on to present about challenges to transitioning to a lower energy and emissions transport sector through a broadly-focused presentation on transport energy use culture and perceptions, as well as policy momentum. A number of recommendations came from this presentation – for example, public road space for public transport as a policy, increasing vehicle occupancy to improve efficiency, challenging car culture as ‘inevitable’, and supporting civil interventions through the state. Some unexpected points also came from this presentation, for example that the emerging middle class and richer consumers are a valid policy focus, given the unsustainable energy practices endemic to this economic bracket (for example, single-occupancy private car use).

Finally on day four, Roland Hunter, consultant at Hunter van Ryneveld (Pty) Ltd and former Chief Financial Officer of the City of Johannesburg, presented on the relationship between transport and infrastructure in African cities. Transportation spending in Africa as a whole is three times higher as a proportion of gross city product than in Asian cities, approximately 21%. Despite this, some inappropriate solutions are still receiving large amounts of funding from national governments. For example in South Africa, 60% of national government transport subsidies go to the rail sector, whilst they carry only 17% of passengers. Minibus taxis carry 61% of passengers nationally, but receive 2.1% of total government subsidy. Fundamental points from this presentation are that spatial form is the determining long-term driver of transport usage and energy consumption, and transport policy should be as much about improving the patterns of transport demand to improve sustainability.