Tag Archives: Uganda

Nuances of Collecting Data – A Uganda Experience?

Josephine Namukisa from UMU writes on the challenges and discoveries made during fieldwork for the SAMSET project.

At the heart of the process of generating a State of Energy Report is field surveys to garner an energy picture. Surveys may range from questionnaires and one-on-one interviews. The latter have been quite beneficial to the SAMSET research team in Uganda as a means of carrying out preliminary data collection. The experiences of carrying out interviews in Jinja and Kasese municipality were enriching in many cases sometimes far more than the data collected eventually and are therefore worth reminiscing about. We encountered lessons on formality versus informality and at times had to slow down and demystify energy concepts. Following are two encounters.

Formality Vs Informality
Clad in jeans, canvas shoes and rack sacks, we arrived at Jinja Municipality Offices ready for a day in the field, which because of our seven months experience so far, we approached with open-mindedness. We would be as flexible as need be and handle every interview as it came although with one constant; to walk away with the most credibly-possible data in keeping with the project ethos. In our estimation, the task would be even easier because an official from Jinja Municipality would be accompanying us into the field. Could we get more credible than that? In our minds, we saw our usually long verbal introductions highlighting organizations that our respondents hardly know about shortened and their responses lengthened simply because of the trust created from dealing with their own. We were in for a rude awakening.

At the municipality head quarters, we were ushered into a large office with leather sofas and a large mahogany desk behind which our soon-to-be “field assistant” was seated, his secretary was rapidly typing out a letter of introduction nearby. We sat quietly for an hour waiting for the official business to be completed before heading out into the field. Our first stop was the UMEME office and the moment our suit-clad field assistant handed over our introduction letter to the Manager and uttered a short “We are from the Town Clerk’s Office”, it was like a brass gate fell between us and the Manager because she visibly acquired an intensely formal stance, ushered us into her office and for the next fifteen minutes explained to us the procedure of carrying out research at UMEME field offices, inclusive formal letters to the Head Office, authorizations and other requirements that in her estimation would take no less than a month. Case closed. Yes our introduction was short, her answer long but both of them absolutely futile.

In Kasese a week later, we were the wiser. Again armed with field clothes, lengthy introductions and the attitude of researchers and not government officials, we made what we referred to as a “courtesy call” on the UMEME office. Again we were offered seats but not so that we could be briefed on protocol but rather on the goings on at the office. The Officer in charge then called his Area Manager informing him of our visit and even though the manager was skeptical at first, that being his first month in the position, on meeting us he relaxed and plunged into a lengthy and fruitful discourse about his work. When we told him about an earlier visit to HIMA cement and Mobuku Power Dam, all things he cares about as part of his work, he opened up about electricity service delivery in Kasese Municipality, the main consumers and strategies for distribution and future projects such as OBA – a project to connect homes for free. Yes, clearance from the Head Quarters in order to access more detailed information was talked about but we walked away information-richer than was the case in Jinja

Unpacking the Bill
One old lone figure on the verandah of an aging post-colonial house is watching the road, her maize cobs spread out in the sun to dry in the large compound of her daughter’s estate- the daughter who lives in Kampala but pays the bill monthly; utility and Dstv bills, the latter without fail so that her twin daughters, the old woman’s grand children can be entertained hourly, daily, weekly and monthly.

Our arrival is greeted with wariness; the team of two who could be anything from walkers who have lost their way, door-to-door evangelists or bill collectors but certainly not researchers into that which eludes her on a monthly basis; the green and white UMEME bill she cannot read because it has no Luganda or Lusoga translation. However, once we introduce ourselves as SAMSET researchers, enquirers into Long Range Energy Alternatives; planners with a vested interest in her energy future, the bill becomes a prop that sets us on common ground. The twosome is the old woman’s dream come true; a magnifying glass to help her make sense of what is eating up the largest chunk of the allowance her daughter sends monthly. She, on the other hand is the bane of the research’s existence; a single micro entry with no records to enter into a statistical sheet. But we take the chairs she excitedly offers, retrieve our pens, magnifying glasses and Luganda vocabulary because for the next hour we shall translate Kilowatt hours, amps and appliance types.

“Aaaah!” it finally dawns on her after no less than an hour; the revelation that the electricity bill has been accurate all along. “But what can I do to keep it down?” The old woman enquires, not sure which would be wiser; switching off the fridge and forfeiting ice-cold water or denying her adorable granddaughters two hours of Cartoon Network a day. That, we leave to her discretion and armed with a table of calculations and statistics; the copy we quickly made after she requested an original she couldn’t read, we head off into the sunset in search of more homes to survey.

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Energy and Sustainable Urban Development CPD Course – Day 2

This blog is part of a series on the Energy and Sustainable Urban Development in Africa workshop, 17 – 21 November, 2014, University of Cape Town. For more details on the purpose of the workshop, see the Day 1 Blog.

Day 2 of the CPD course began with an introduction from SAMSET project partners as to the state of energy in African cities currently, focusing on the SAMSET partner municipalities. The overwhelming majority of energy in African cities across Sub-Saharan Africa is consumed in the buildings sector, with limited exceptions for large industrial towns/cities (such as Steve Tshwete in South Africa), and large transport hubs (such as Jinja in Uganda). Jinja’s status as a transport hub linking Kenya and western Uganda/Central Africa more broadly leads to significantly increased petrol and diesel consumption compared to equivalently-sized settlements, and large increases in carbon emissions for the transport sector as a result. This highlights the necessity once again of the local context in specific municipalities needing to be considered in effective energy transitions.

Modal split of transport use in Accra + South AfricaModal split of transport use in Accra, Ghana and South Africa as a whole. Source: SEA/ISSER

Municipalities’ own energy usage was also covered in the morning sessions, with particular emphasis on the “low-hanging fruit” still present in many Sub-Saharan African municipalities. SAMSET project team member Melusile Ndlovu presented on a variety of methods for increasing efficiency and reducing energy inputs for municipalities, following experience from a previous Sustainable Energy Africa energy efficiency potential modelling project done for the South African Cities Network (SACN). Municipal energy consumption assessment for this project was grouped under broad headings of bulk water supply and treatment, street and traffic lighting, municipal buildings, and vehicle fleets. The municipal vehicle fleet dominates the total energy savings potential (39%), with savings realisable from improved vehicle practices (the use of fuel efficient tyres, improved maintenance, tyre management, reduced mileage and awareness raising). Energy efficiency interventions in bulk water supply and wastewater treatment were said to hold the greatest electricity and carbon emissions savings potential, among the electricity consuming sectors in the modeled cities, (49% and 41% respectively), mainly due to the potential for more efficient pumping motors coupled with variable speed drives (VSDs). This session also emphasised the importance of municipalities leading by example, providing a foundation for private sector stakeholders to enter the energy efficiency sector.

Parallel sessions in the afternoon covered municipal waste and MSW-energy projects in the SA and Ghanaian context, as well as the household energy transition and household energy poverty. Three presentations or residential and commercial building design, energy consumption and efficiency were given, covering everything from green architecture in the African context for high-end commercial developments, to formalisation activities in the Joe Slovo settlement in Cape Town, and the effect that densification and green design has had on social housing energy consumption.

cpd blog day 2 buildings image 1Energy efficient commercial developments in Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront area. Images: Arup Ltd

Finally, SAMSET project partner Dr Simon Bawakyillenuo from the University of Ghana presented on the Ghanaian energy efficiency standards and labeling program in Ghana, covering topics from the ban of used air conditioner sales, to the government’s 6 million CFL unit dissemination program resulting in a 124 MW peak demand reduction for the country, to the promotion of mass transit and BRT, as well as fuel use reduction in the private vehicle fleet, through public education and promotion.

CPD Course Group SessionsGroup sessions at the Energy and Sustainable Urban Development CPD Course

Energy and Sustainable Urban Development CPD Course – Day 1

SAMSET team members were among 40 participants from municipal governments and research institutions across South Africa, Ghana and Uganda at a continuing professional development course held at the University of Cape Town Graduate Business School, beginning on the 17th November 2014. The course was entitled “Energy and Sustainable Urban Development in Africa”, and ran for five days. This blog will present a series of snapshots of the key themes from each day of the course, discussing critical ideas and points to consider for municipal, district and national governments in Sub-Saharan Africa considering the issue of sustainable urban energy transitions.

Day one of the course sought to provide an introduction and overview to sustainable urban development in the global context, drilling down into issues specific to the African, Sub-Saharan African and local contexts. With current projections forecasting a 4 degree Celsius average rise in global temperatures under a business as usual scenario, immense challenges exist globally on how to mitigate the effects of climate change, and adapt where mitigation is impossible.

Urban development is set to dominate human population growth in the coming decades, and with energy intensities of urban areas growing rapidly in the developing world (for example, South African urban areas occupy 4% of the country’s surface area but consume an estimated 50% of the country’s primary energy supply currently, a global challenge exists in making urban development more sustainable. High-carbon development pathways predicated on fossil fuel use, as used from the Industrial Revolution to today, have proven to be costly, both financially and in terms of environmental and social effects, and the need exists to develop and mainstream alternative solutions to urban development.

SAMSET CPD course Day 1 Image

David Kyasanku from Jinja Municipality, Uganda, presents at the Energy and Sustainable Urban Development CPD course

Municipal governments in Sub-Saharan Africa have a critical role to play in this urban development. Municipal mandates cover a vast array of urban services and roles, from disaster management to provision of sanitation and waste management to spatial planning and transportation. Intimate knowledge of their local contexts, challenges and opportunities also place municipal governments in a strong position to create effective solutions to the urbanisation challenge.

However, there are still issues surrounding the municipal government role in urban energy transitions (a contested terrain). Shifting priorities at both a local and national level for energy create pressures on timeframes for solutions, and a lack of long-term planning was consistently cited as a key challenge at the local level. Stresses, both financially and in terms of capacity through personnel changes, can also contribute to stalling of project implementation. Tailored solutions can also be a challenge to implement, and a key theme of the discussion on day one was the need for community consultation in project design and management, moving to a participatory planning process with local communities to deliver effective solutions in their micro-contexts rather than a centralised planning process.

This blog will provide further insight into the discussions at the CPD course throughout the week, from household energy poverty alleviation to municipal electricity distribution, as well as details from fieldwork and discussions through all sessions.

Third SAMSET Network Meeting – Kalk Bay, Cape Town, 13 – 15 November 2014

The third SAMSET network meeting was held in Kalk Bay, Cape Town, South Africa, from the 13th – 15th November 2014. This meeting was intended to bring together project partner organisations with representatives from the project’s municipality partners, in order to share the current state of the project, as well as discuss ideas for further collaboration, provide further insight into the challenges facing municipal energy transitions in Sub-Saharan Africa, and discuss strategies for expanding the reach to urban energy stakeholders (for example, municipal/national policy-makers) of the SAMSET knowledge exchange model and research outcomes, mobilising support for energy transitions in the project partner countries.

SAMSET 3rd meeting Kalk Bay

SAMSET Network Meeting, Kalk Bay, Cape Town, 13 – 15 November 2014 – Image: Xavier Lemaire

The SAMSET project is working with six partner municipalities: Cape Town and Polokwane in South Africa, Jinja and Kasese in Uganda, and Ga East and Awutu Senya East in Ghana. A broad spectrum of urbanisation and energy consumption exists in these municipalities. Both Cape Town and Jinja municipalities have a diverse manufacturing base and a growing (or in the case of Cape Town, developed) service industry, although Jinja still has some platinum smelting installations. Jinja is also a major transit hub between Kenya and the west of Uganda. Polokwane and Kasese are both rapidly urbanising manufacturing cities. Differences also exist between Ga East and Awutu Senya East, with Ga East being predominantly more affluent and better-serviced, whilst Awutu Senya East has a higher proportion of informality in the residential and commercial sectors.

Several commonalities exist in the state of energy picture in these three countries: significant energy expenditure in the residential and transport sectors is a common theme, as well as high proportions of informality, both in the residential and commercial sectors. This is most notable in the Ugandan context, with large part of the residential and commercial sectors combined in Jinja municipality being informal. The challenges of accurate data collection on informality were another common theme throughout these reports, focusing on the need for house-to-house surveys in some cases.

Project team-specific sessions on the first day revolved around the production of academic papers for the project, and a wide variety of topics were proposed to focus on, ranging from outputs from the University of Cape Town LEAP modelling, to case studies from Ghanaian municipal experiences with waste-to-energy, to more qualitative outputs from the Ugandan data collection experience.

Strategies for dissemination and awareness raising for the project were also discussed, including further promotion of the SAMSET blog and website, as well as new media resources, such as the beta SAMSET app for iOS and Android developed by Gamos, available for download from the Google Play store.

The second day of the network meeting revolved around input from municipal partners as to the ‘dream” of sustainability and sustainable energy transitions in their municipalities, i.e. what goals do the municipalities have for energy transitions, what barriers exist to these goals, and what opportunities are there to overcome these barriers. A wide array of propositions came out of country group discussions.

South African municipalities Polokwane and Cape Town noted the issues in disconnection of key departments in municipalities for energy planning, and saw networking with stakeholders as a primary barrier. Greater integration of departments, more engagement with the national regulator NERSA, and revisiting municipal energy strategies were key goals of the municipalities. SAMSET team members could assist Polokwane and Cape Town in facilitating knowledge transfer and lessons sharing within other municipalities to achieve this.

Ghanaian municipalities notably focused on LPG transport integration, BRT piloting and waste-to-energy piloting. Given the large portion of energy consumption attributable to transport in Ghanaian cities, fuel-switching to LPG, supported by the government’s national LPG dissemination program improving availability, is seen as a route to lower emissions and petrol/diesel consumption. Controlling emissions with transport by-laws, and continuing the piloting of BRT corridors in Ga East are  targeted. Investigations of waste-to-energy in both households and commercial developments are also targeted by Ga East and Awutu Senya East, both in terms of landfill-to-energy and household biodigester promotion, building on the work done by SAMSET project partner ISSER at the University of Ghana already.

Urban environment transitions including pedestrianisation in Jinja municipality and the creation of pedestrian-friendly zones in Kasese, were the primary goals in Ugandan partner municipalities. Key stakeholders were assessed as the municipal council and technical departments, transport operators, landlords, parking service providers, corporate organisations and the local community. The transitions targeted focused around improving the pedestrian built environment, both in terms of seating/lighting/other physical factors, to the improvement of safety. The partner municipalities’ methodology in this transition focuses on awareness-raising and campaigning to build public support for pedestrianisation projects, including regular meetings with community leaders and stakeholders to improve engagement and harmonise priorities.

The wide array of factors behind energy transitions were also highlighted in the concrete next steps definition component of this session, for example the huge political and public relations dimension of solar water heating rollout in South Africa, and the importance of data sharing and identifying data gaps between municipalities across the Sub-Saharan African region, achieved through knowledge exchange, lessons-sharing and the championing of the energy transition portfolio in municipal government. Considering energy transitions in isolation was warned against, due to the inherently cross-cutting nature of energy across all spheres of municipal activity. Finally, reflections were also had on the numerous sources of finance for municipal energy projects that exist across sectors, for example donor funding, corporate social responsibility promotion, and bilateral/multilateral partnerships.

The Rise of Afro-Smart Cities Should be Viewed with Caution

Johnathan Silver from Durham University writes on the potential challenges to African “Smart Cities”, and why the public discourse on the matter may not live up to the hype.

The recent announcement by IBM establishing its twelfth global laboratory in Nairobi has followed a rise in news about Smart cities across urban Africa. These include IBM’s inclusion of Durban and Abuja in its Smarter Cities Challenge, a plethora of summits and conferences, together with planning for a series of new smart urban extensions on the periphery of major conurbations such as Accra and Kinshasa. Together these developments are generating an ever growing clamour concerning the potential of smart urbanism to transform urban Africa through the integration of digital technologies across networked infrastructures, offering resource efficiencies, global competitiveness, safer cities and ultimately much greater control over the built environment and everyday life.

Here is a depiction of the Smart City (Source: http://www2.schneider-electric.com/sites/corporate/en/solutions/sustainable_solutions/smart-cities.page)

Such coverage is often predicated on these techno-futures enabling ways to leapfrog other global regions through next generation infrastructure and technology. The images and narratives of smart futures in cities like Rio, portrayed in endless representations through its control room, and major Northern cities such as London and New York are ubiquitous and firmly entrenched in the imaginary of policymakers and the wider public. Yet the notion of smart in urban Africa has been less visible (at least on a global level) up till now. But as things change, the rise of Afro-Smart cities is going to require much more attention from those interested in rapid urbanisation and associated challenges of poverty and development faced by these diverse cities. For behind the widely circulated images of slum dwellers using mobile technologies to improve daily lives, the dominance of large ICT companies, a splintered urban landscape, land dispossession and the securitisation of urban space reveal a more complicated potential smart urban future.

Hip high tech start-ups, globally-connected young entrepreneurs and newly configured broadband infrastructures form a key ingredient of the Afro-Smart city or “digital revolution” narrative. In cities such as Kigali new techno-cultures are emerging and seeking to bring the Smart city to a much larger proportion of the population through cheap and accessible smart-phones, successful place-based apps and growing public interest in smart technologies being developed by African-based developers and users themselves. This new generation of Smart city innovators is increasingly connected through tech hubs and incubators for new businesses with spaces such as BantaLabs, Saint-Louis, Senegal through to Hive CoLab, Kampala offering spaces for collaboration and addressing both the specific ICT challenges and opportunities being faced across urban Africa.

Adding to this smart wave, rising interest from ICT companies,consultancies such as Deloitte and private equity is generating increased investment and policy focus around Smart cities. Yet the presence of global ICT companies across African cities, including IBM’s relationship with Nairobi poses similar questions to those being asked across urban areas in other parts of the world about who actually benefits from the implementation of smart technologies, growing flows of big data and the affordability of being smart. As Adam Greenfield, in his excellent book ‘ Against the SMART city’ cautions, such futures may well be nothing more than a (techno) utopian fantasy that, once unravelled, reveals little more than the opening of markets and opportunities for profit for large corporations. Nowhere are these powerful narratives of Smart city futures better articulated than in the range of urban development projects being pursued across the continent.

New infrastructure and city extensions are being planned and constructed across the length and breadth of the continent with promises of Smart city living that target that emerging but most unsteady of terms, the African middle class. These include projects in existing cities such as Johannesburg, which has entered into partnership with BWired to establish new broadband networks across the city. Yet, as commentators such as Nancy Oderdaal have long noticed, the splintered nature of ICT infrastructures across urban Africa shows a clear spatial division between the poor and rich that may be further cemented by shifts towards smart networks.

As well as reconfiguring existing urban space for the smart city, a plethora of new city extensions promising potential residents a technologised, data drive future, away from the seemingly chaotic (and unconnected) streets of other parts of the city are emerging and mirroring those well-known global hubsof Smart city hubris. Such Smart city developments are thus often designed beyond existing cities and their slum areas. Konza Techno City, 60km away from Nairobi in the newly named “Silicon Savannah” andHope City, Ghana both promise high tech jobs, global corporate interest, advanced building design and high speed connectivity.

Konza Techno City, Kenya (Source: www.bbc.co.uk)

Yet problems in delivering these urban development projects are myriad and likely to entrench inequalities across already divided and contested cities. For example, La Cite du Fleuve, in DR Congo, brilliantly deconstructed by Filip De Boek, is creating a series of overlapping sources of tension in Kinshasa including struggles around land ownership and issues of dispossession that begin to lay bare the rhetoric of these urban developments. Such urban extensions may well offer smart living for urban dwellers but echoing the gated communities of the past few decades also have to be understood as new frontiers for capital accumulation and a clear demonstration of business sectors and parts of society withdrawing from the wider city and society into enclaves or archipelagos of high technology. Scholars are documenting such processes across the global South, most prominently Ayona Datta in India. This emerging knowledge suggests that the stark urban inequalities present in cities is unlikely to be addressed in these Smart city developments. Instead, dynamics of land dispossession, that are beginning to mirror the wider and ongoing land grabbing across the continent threaten, as Vanessa Watson has eloquently written, to turn these urban dreams into nightmares.

The final area of caution around smart urbanism across Africa needs to be centred around the securitisation of urban space through new technologies, infrastructures and data flows. The control of internet usage and social media is common across many cities including Addis Adaba and of course Cairo, where bloggers critical of the government or organisers of social mobilisations are being imprisoned on despairingly long terms. Being aware of how new smart technologies and infrastructures may also be deployed to curtail human rights and civic participation across urban Africa is critical to how we understand the rise of Afro-Smart cities. We only have to look back at the recent past in South Africa to see how IBM-designed, proto-smart technologies were used by the apartheid regime to control urban populations, restrict access to the cities and securitise a racialised, segregated urban space.

Further current examples are not too hard to find. For instance the development of the Skunk: Riot Drone by the South African company Desert Wolf , to deploy against miners in the country’s restive Platinum Belt and armed with surveillance systems and weapons (including pepper spray), provides a frankly terrifying vision of where Smart technologies may take us. After the Marikana massacre in 2012 by the South African police force and a highly-charged five-month strike by thousands of miners those urging caution in thinking that such technologies could not be used may need to think again. And with the first orders for 25 of these drones, it does not take much of an imaginative leap to see them being deployed across the simmering townships of the country as tensions and inequality continue to mount. Such developments provide a menacing retort to boosterish, utopian narratives of smart being used by large tech companies, consultants and increasingly government actors and policymakers.

Afro-Smart cities are becoming increasingly central in narratives about urban futures on the continent. Policies, reports and public discourse tend to paint a remorselessly upbeat vision of smart technologies that big data and advanced ICT infrastructure, connectivity and new urban (tech) space can help to transform landscapes of poverty and contribute to the oft-discussed “rise of Africa”. Some caution and perspective is certainly needed around Afro-Smart cities that interrogates these narratives and better understands the socio-spatial implications of these new forms of data-driven urbanism.

Johnathan would like to acknowledge the support of Alan Wiig in reading an earlier draft of this text.
This blog is also available on the London School of Economics website.

 

Urban Energy Transitions – Uganda

Prof. Simon Marvin from Durham University reports on the Durham SAMSET team’s recent work in Uganda.

During March we undertook initial fieldwork in Kampala, Uganda as part of our work on developing a knowledge exchange framework for urban energy transitions in African cities [1]. The work had three main components. i): a ‘netmapping’ exercise to review the institutional landscape of the energy sector with local and national policy makers. ii) meetings with agents of local energy transitions from the NGO and private sector. iii) And dialogue with our Uganda partners on understanding the case study cities and sensitising the knowledge exchange framework to the local context. Three sets of issues emerged that will be important in shaping our future work programme in SAMSET

Restricted Capacity of Municipalities to Shape Energy Transitions

We met the Municipal Town Clerks – the equivalent of a Chief executive in UK – from our two case study cities.  These municipalities have few formal responsibilities for energy issues with policy making priorities and capacity being exercised at a national level – through the energy ministry and the actions of an unbundled energy system of generation, transmission and distribution. Consequently, there was very limited capacity in the local authority to focus on energy issues – with only one member of staff employed to deal with all environmental issues – including working on forests, wastewater etc.  While municipalities were concerned about a range of energy issues in their cities including high costs, disruption, health and air quality plus access of households to formal energy system  – there are few formal mechanisms for them to interact with, or shape, the energy system.

By-passing Municipal and National Context

Mapping the urban energyscape revealed a wide range of local energy initiatives around lighting, fuel-efficient stoves and a range of decentralised technologies.  But these responses were strongly dependent on the actions of external intermediaries – NGOs and private companies  – who worked with local households and community-based organisations to develop local energy initiatives.  What was striking about these was the ways in which these responses tended to connect to international financial mechanisms, agencies and particular national contexts involving private companies, universities and NGOs to a particular local context – household, sewage works etc. There was strong sense that these initiatives largely by-passed the municipal and national contexts within which they were inserted according to external priorities – a form of transnational governance of local energy.

“District Champion” Energy Response.

While the energyscape was incredibly fragmented there was one example of an energy strategy at a municipal scale in Kasese that WWF has chosen as the “ Champion District”[2].  The imitative involves working with a cross-sectoral partnership designed to accelerate energy access for off grid communities through cooking and lighting. A number of different pathways are being experimented with including working with not-for profit NGOs and commercial models.  A private solar provider had report significant up lift in monthly solar installations from 2 up to 400 a month after the scheme provided enhanced access to the market through CBOs.  In contrast an efficient stove NGO reported that the scheme had been less successful in providing access to households.

Solar Lighting in Kasese

Solar lighting in Kasese © WWF-Norge/Will Boase

[1] http://samsetproject.net

[2] http://wwf.panda.org/who_we_are/wwf_offices/uganda/

Where Is The Blackwood?

Simon Batchelor from Gamos offers his thoughts on the importance of considering charcoal use as a fuel option, even in urbanising areas.

As David Mann of UMU points out in last week’s blog, “wood and charcoal still represent roughly 90 per cent of the total energy consumed in the country (Uganda).” He goes on to say that “as Ugandan cities grow and develop, the fuels used in transportation, industry, refrigeration, lighting and entertainment become more diverse; we see gasoline, paraffin, diesel, and electricity increasing their share of the energy mix.”  This energy mix is important for Africa municipalities, although wood and charcoal remain a mainstay.  Remember that cooking remains the largest single use of energy in an urban household.  Even in a large city like Kampala charcoal looms large.

Using Measure DHS data we can show  in the figure below that charcoal was a dominant choice of cooking fuel in Kampala in 2011.  Each dot represents a cluster of respondents, and each red dot shows that between 75% to 100% of households surveyed in that cluster were using charcoal for cooking.   Only in a few areas at the very centre of Kampala do the number of households using charcoal drop to below 50%.

Gamos Blog Feb 14 Image

So given the prevalence of charcoal for cooking, it must feature in designs for the future?  Given our focus on modernity, and the irrelevance of charcoal to the mega cities of the Western world it is easy to marginalise the role of charcoal.  Consider the Future Proofing Cities report.  This scoping study sought to “help national and regional  government and development agencies understand the environmental risks to growth and poverty reduction in cities to target investment and support at those urban areas or greatest need”.   It “assesses the risks to cities from climate hazards, resource scarcities, and damage to ecosystems and how they can act now to future proof themselves.

This comprehensive report addresses the balance to be struck between urban growth and development on one hand, and environmental damage on the other. Energy is indeed one of the factors considered, but when it comes to the use of biomass specifically, it lists a biomass power plant and tree planting as options for Bangkok.  Although it does acknowledge the use of fuelwood (almost in passing), it fails to mention ‘charcoal’ specifically, and only touched on deforestation as a contributor to the complex agriculture water erosion nexus.  This is not to criticise the report team, but rather to illustrate how a focus on modern approaches to urban development can easily overlook a simple, but currently a major, energy source in Africa.

Charcoal will remain important for cities in Africa for the foreseeable future, and we need to bring it into any discussion of, as David puts it, ‘energy production and usage at the scale of the municipality’.