The SAMSET Project hosted its second continuing professional development course at Victoria University in Kampala, Uganda from the 7th – 11th November 2016. The title of the course was “A Practitioner’s Insight into Urban Energy Planning, Implementation and Management”, and aimed to cover the issues that practitioners (such as urban planners, architects and municipal government officials) face when addressing urban energy management.
The first day of the course was focused on fieldwork in and around Kampala, aiming to give attendees experience of the issues facing Kampala in the urban energy and sustainable energy spheres today. The first part of the fieldwork focused on the central market district in Kampala, and involved a walking tour led by local partners through the market area and central business district of the city.
Part of the central market district in Kampala. Image: Daniel Kerr
To say that the market area in Kampala is busy is an understatement. Passage through the area is only really possible on foot in some places, and even then only when avoiding the constant movement of goods and people through the narrow streets of the market district. The main roads in the area are extremely busy, with heavy goods vehicles mixing with matuba taxis and boda-bodas (motorcycle taxis) to create effective gridlock at some points in the day. The sustainable energy market, however, was on show in many areas, whether that be hole-in-the-wall shops selling small solar home systems, to street vendors selling improved cookstoves and cookstove liners. The challenges to urban transport were clear to see in the area, particularly how best to facilitate the movement of goods and people in the centre of the city, without stifling the bustling engine of economic growth that the central market district provides to the city.
The second phase of the CPD course fieldtrip involved a visit to a local landfill site on the outskirts of Kampala. This site processed a significant amount of the solid waste in the city, including from official waste management collection services and informal networks of waste collectors. The site also supports a network of informal waste pickers and processors, collecting items such as plastic waste for recycling. A recent initiative at the landfill has seen a PTFE processing facility constructed through collaboration with Chinese investors, although this site has not been without issues. In particular, while investment in the processing facility has created employment at the site, redistribution of profits from the facility has not occurred, with very little being reinvested in the site or community of waste pickers servicing it.
Landfill site in Kampala, Uganda. Image: Daniel Kerr
The issues facing solid waste management in large, primary cities such as Kampala are myriad, and the effects of this were plain to see in this phase of the trip. Collection and processing, as well as sustainability in operations, are both issues that need to be addressed by urban planners when considering municipal waste issues.
The consortium of the Supporting African Municipalities in Sustainable Energy Transitions (SAMSET) researchers is organising a CPD from 7 – 11 November, 2016 in Kampala (Uganda) during which it will share with key stakeholders findings thus far, strategies and case studies from the research and key allies in the field. Concepts from these sessions are geared towards supporting initiatives for energy transitions in various arena in the urban environment.
At the core of the SAMSET project is promoting responsible use of and access to clean energy. The role of national policy and regulatory frameworks and how these have since evolved to link government and governance on the one hand and academia, finance, investment and community on the other, in developing instruments that promote and facilitate energy transitions is interrogated in this project. The project is cognisant of the fact that social or socio-economic engagement in as far as they influence attitudes toward sustainable energy transitions are key drivers. As such, even at local/micro scale SAMSET is very keen to empower local communities to thrive on their own. As a strategy to deliver key action oriented messages, case studies that demonstrate the presence and impact of projects on communities at urban scale will be explored.
On the first day, 7 November, 2016, participants will be taken on a field trip to acquaint themselves with the scope of urban energy. This will be followed by four days of in-depth presentations to familiarise participants with the subject matter and group tasks to enable participants apply themselves in order to appreciate the concepts better. The key themes will include: Resource-efficiency in Energy Planning, Implementation and Management; Participation and Key Stakeholders in Energy Planning, Implementation and Management; Policy and Regulatory Frameworks and; BUILD[ing] Resilience.
While the CPD is open to all Built Environment practitioners ranging from government departments, development partners, architects, engineers, planners, building control officers, energy managers, contractors, housing associations, developers, clients, students, academics and researchers, it will also involve key actors like the the Parliamentary Committee handling Climate Change/Energy Policy and/or Building Regulations; Kampala Capital City Authority; Ministry of Local Government; Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development; Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Uganda National Bureau of Standards; Uganda Revenue Authority, Uganda Local Government Association and; representatives from the project’s Pilot Municipalities in Uganda – Jinja and Kasese.
Originally posted on The Conversation, Louise Tait from the University of Cape Town Energy Research Centre writes on sustainable urban planning and energy, and the SAMSET Project’s role in supporting sustainable energy development in developing world cities.
Africa is experiencing a massive flow of people into urban areas. This is happening in major urban centres such as Lagos, Accra and Dar es Salaam as well as in smaller and secondary cities. The pace at which this urban growth is happening inevitably puts strain on city authorities. The supply of services and developing infrastructure is vital for human and economic development.
But the evidence base to support forward planning remains scarce for most cities. In its absence, cities run the risk of infrastructural lock-ins to systems that are unable to accommodate their growth sustainably.
Cities with high concentrations of people and economic activities are major sites of energy demand. Africa contributes very little to global climate change today. But future growth must be managed sustainably. If the emissions of developing country cities increase similar to many western cities today, catastrophic climate change will be unavoidable.
The SAMSET project
Supporting African Municipalities in Sustainable Energy Transitions, or SAMSET, is a four-year project that commenced in 2013. Its aim was to address sustainable energy transitions in African cities. It provides practical planning and implementation support to municipalities to manage future energy planning in a sustainable manner.
The project involves six cities in Ghana, Uganda and South Africa. The cities were Ga East and Awutu Senya East in Ghana, Kasese and Jinja in Uganda and Cape Town and Polokwane in South Africa. Research and support organisations in each country and the UK were involved as well.
Secondary and smaller cities are the main focus for support. These cities are also experiencing massive social and economic expansions. But they typically have less capacity to cope. Despite their significance as current and future sites of energy demand, they receive much less research and funding focus.
Secondary cities such as Uganda’s Kasese traditionally lack the research or funding to make sustainable energy transitions.
Developing an evidence base to support planning
The first phase of the project involved developing an evidence base to support planning and future implementation of sustainable energy interventions. Locally relevant planning tools are essential. There are very few studies investigating and modelling the energy systems of African cities. South Africa is a notable exception.
An urban energy system refers to all the flows of different energy resources, such as petrol, diesel, electricity, wood and charcoal in a city. It records where resources are produced or imported into an area and where they are consumed in different sectors. Such information can help cities better understand which sectors are major consumers and identify inefficiencies. It also helps identify where opportunities for energy efficiency and new technologies may lie, especially those associated with improved economic and welfare effects.
Much of how we understand urban energy systems is based on cities in western and developed countries. But many cities in Africa challenge assumptions about economic development trajectories and spatial arrangements that may be implicit in energy modelling approaches which are based on developed country experiences.
SAMSET modelled the urban energy systems of each of these cities using the Long-range Energy Alternatives Planning model. It was developed by the Stockholm Environment Institute. This model records all energy consumption and production in each sector of an economy. For example the household, commercial, industrial and transport sectors are all recorded. It is a useful planning tool because it projects the growth of energy systems until 2030 under different scenarios. This helps cities understand the future impacts of different investment and planning decisions now.
For SAMSET, universities in each country undertook primary data collection on sectoral energy demand and supply. A baseline model and range of scenarios were then collaboratively developed with local research partners and municipalities.
The project aimed to develop an evidence base to serve as a tool for local decision-makers. Also for further collaborative energy strategy development and to prioritise the implementing of options for the next phases. The scenarios have therefore attempted the following:
Through stakeholder engagement, to take into account governance systems.
Existing infrastructural constraints and opportunities.
Aligning with other development imperatives.
Value of the process
The project has served to introduce to city and local planners the use of energy models. It also attempted to set up the foundation for future development of energy modelling exercises and its applications. Collaborating to collect data, discuss key energy issues, and identify interventions are highly valuable to local stakeholders.
The process was instrumental in generating an understanding of energy planning. For some of municipalities, this was the first time consideration has been given to energy as a municipal function.
The modelling process acts as a strategic entry point to build interest and support for the project with municipal stakeholders. It also provides a useful platform and tool to engage around long-term planning and the implications of different actions. An example is infrastructural lock-in to emissions and energy intensive growth paths.
Value of the outputs
SAMSET is making an important knowledge contribution to the dynamics of sustainable energy transitions in African cities. Such research is of course made difficult by the data scarcity typical at a sub-national level. But this is merely reflective of the lack of financial investment to date.
The local data collection processes in this project have been vital in building capacity and generating awareness around urban energy systems. Developing new data and building knowledge of urban energy transitions in the global south is critically important. It has had a strong focus on establishing a network of both north-south and south-south practitioners to support more work in this arena.
The modelling has had to account for several distinct characteristics. These include:
The informal economy
Own energy generation through diesel and gasoline generators
The high reliance on biomass
Variations in urban forms and issues such as suppressed demand for energy services.
This project has also made important methodological contributions to modelling urban energy systems in developing countries.
Alex Ndibwami from Uganda Martyrs University write on the recent African Union of Architects Congress in Kampala, Uganda, and its relevance to the work and goals of SAMSET.
Last month, I had the opportunity to attend the African Union of Architects Congress in Kampala. This was the first time Uganda was hosting the event whose theme was Our Architect, Our Communities, Our Heritage.
While there were a number of presentations and discussions, I will focus on three of particular interest specifically because they are at the heart of the issues SAMSET has set out to deal with.
Ms Jennifer Musisi, the Executive Director of Kampala Capital City Authority, delivered a keynote presentation on urbanisation in general and what direction is being taken to improve the conditions in her city; while Mr Medie Muhammad Lutwama, Executive Director, ACTogether Uganda, presented the approach to their work in informal settlements, challenging the built environment professional rethink their attitude towards urbanisation and the challenges it comes with; and from a gripping and inspiring philosophical point of view Ms Lillian Namuganyi of Makerere University, College of Engineering Design, Art and Technology discussed socio-spatial landscapes in a historical and ideological sense, and what form it could take to renew a contextually rich socio-cultural dynamic in a contemporary sense. Ms Lillian Namuganyi is also a practising architect and a researcher. What these three presentations had in common was that they are concerned about the future of the city dweller.
What I will dwell on though are the subtle hints for a collaboration that these three players in the built environment are signalling. While Ms Jennifer Musisi may have concluded inviting professionals to get on board and Mr Medie Muhammad Lutwama reechoed the need for professionals to be less elitist, Ms Lillian Namuganyi simply set the arena for a renewed attitude toward the socio-spatial landscape.
But what does it all mean in practical terms? We all know that governments focus on infrastructure the best way it fits their political agenda while Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) actually tend to be more hands-on attempting to solve the real problems at the grassroots, yet unless efforts are combined any discourse will remain academic and the existence of the built environment professional float for elitist.
Is there room for a real collaboration that deals with the issues collectively and could deliver lasting solutions? Who is well placed to lead this and sustain the momentum – a city manager, an NGO activist, an academic/researcher or a built environment professional? It is difficult to tell in a society where accountability born of collective effort is not part of the work ethic.
Might Ms Lillian Namuganyi suggest a starting point for us in her assertion that “Whether operating within or at its margins, the re-working of the strategic city is a logic and order of fragments, scraps that are pieced together moment by moment. It is a city of micro-logics of the people’s social and especially economic survival – many small thoughts and actions of many people, woven into the detailed space of the city, unpredictable, never static, ever mutating.” So I dare ask again without deliberate collaboration that acknowledges the complexity of the city and the contribution from different players is the plan of action simply talk of it? Or is there potential for real change – a chain reaction of possibilities borne of new partnerships that combine astute managerial skills, compassionate activists, avant-garde professionals and more outgoing academics.
The SAMSET project is an action oriented research project setting out to close the capacity gap at municipality level while in a participatory manner developing strategies that will support energy transitions. Indeed, capacity and engagement are a precursor to action, but without the acknowledgement of and investment in structures that promote inter disciplinary work ethos, is it sustainable?
Mark Borchers, Megan Euston-Brown and Melusile Ndlovu from Sustainable Energy Africa recently contributed this post to the Urbanafrica.net Urban Voices series, analysing the role of local government in sustainable energy transitions. The original is reproduced in full below.
African local governments have an important role to play in sustainable energy transitions, yet the ability within local governments to step into this role is severely inadequate. This is problematic because municipalities, in close contact with their citizenry, are often better placed to plan and respond to energy needs in locally appropriate ways than national governments or other ‘external’ agents.
Urbanization rates in Africa are amongst the highest in the world and the municipal capacity to undertake minimum levels of urban planning and basic service delivery is severely inadequate, as acknowledged by the African Development Bank, UNHabitat and Cities Alliance.
A major challenge is that local government is poorly understood by those trying to be agents of change, and research often remains at a superficial level. Even work which specifically aims at going beyond the usual ‘vague policy suggestions,’ to use a phrase from the ACC’s Edgar Pieterse, struggles to get to grips with many key local government dynamics, and the number of outputs produced by consultants or researchers with local government as an intended target audience, which have little or no purchase, is worrying.
Non-profit Sustainable Energy Africa’s experience of working in partnership with local government in South Africa for 17 years to support with sustainable energy transitions affirms this. The organization has provided capacity to local government in areas where government did not have experience, staff or systems, and in an environment where officials are often preoccupied with short-term service delivery and other urgent goals displace longer-term considerations such as those linked to climate change mitigation.
Sustainable Energy Africa has spent years supporting several municipalities in the development of energy and climate change strategies. However, after official approval of the first few strategies, it started becoming apparent that the momentum that had led to strategy finalization rarely continued into implementation. For example, the first set of strategies developed in the municipalities of Cape Town, Sol Plaatjie, Ekurhuleni, Buffalo City and Tshwane struggled to gain significant traction.
What followed was many years of supportive partnership with municipalities: participating in meetings, undertaking research in areas where there were concerns, developing specific motivations for political or other vested interests as they arose, engaging with city treasury to raise their awareness and explore workable revenue futures, exchanging lessons and sharing success stories amongst municipalities, and raising the profile of local issues in national fora and strategies.
Sustainable Energy Africa’s experience has demonstrated that the work involved in getting to the point of having an officially approved energy and climate change strategy is but a small fraction of what is required for any real change to gain traction. Unfortunately, the dynamics that impede efforts to bring the strategy to fruition are often poorly understood by development support institutions (including donors) and researchers. Guidelines and resource documents on urban transport policy development, climate proofing of informal settlements, and energy efficiency financing, to give a few examples, are often of little use to local government. Research focusing on dynamics affecting service delivery and assessments of renewable energy options for urban areas, for example, seldom talk to the constraints and pressures that senior officials encounter on a day-to-day basis, and thus tend to have little impact.
It is not surprising that adequately detailed understanding of local government is lacking, precisely because it is difficult to gain useful insight into this world from normal development support programmes, which may last a few years and often involve imported expertise, or from research projects, even if they are methodologically well considered. To illustrate, about 10 years ago work undertaken by development support organisations and researchers pointed to solar water heaters being economically, socially and environmentally beneficial for application across South Africa’s urban areas. Cost and technical feasibility studies were undertaken, presentations made, guidelines produced, case studies circulated, and workshops held. Introducing solar water heaters was considered by many to be a ‘no brainer’, and was a standard feature of all municipal energy strategies developed at the time. Yet over the years little changed. Within municipalities there were staff capacity barriers, institutional location uncertainties, debates around mandates, political ambivalence, and a good dose of plain old resistance to change.
When one of the most progressive South African municipalities finally developed a detailed solar water heater rollout programme, further obstacles had to be negotiated: it ran foul of the city treasury (it threatened electricity sales and thus revenue), electricity department (impact on the load profile, technical issues and revenue), procurement department (selection of different equipment service providers), housing department (roof strength issues of some government housing), and legal department (ownership of equipment and tendering processes), which further delayed progress by several years.
Other sustainability interventions such as energy efficiency in buildings, renewable electricity generation and densification (an important enabler of sustainable transport options) all face their own mix of complexities, most of which are difficult to know from the outside.
Change in government institutions seldom happens fast. When those hoping to be agents of change better understand the complexities of municipal functioning, transformation can be more effectively facilitated. Supporting local government often means entering an uncomfortable, messy, non-linear space but it can be more effectively done than often happens. In many ways, what is required is an inversion of the usual approach: support agents or researchers need to respond to the specific, not the general; listen, not advise; seek to be of service rather than pursue a preconceived agenda. The focus of the lens needs to shift well beyond general observations on ‘local institutional capacity’, ‘reform of regulatory systems’ or ‘policy impasses’. What is needed is a much more detailed, nuanced, and longer-term understanding and set of relationships for more impactful engagement.
Through applying these approaches, Sustainable Energy Africa’s work in South Africa has helped local government move from being considered irrelevant to the energy field 10 years ago to being regarded as critical agents to a sustainable energy future today.
A recent independent review of Sustainable Energy Africa’s local government support programme points to its success. It is described as, amongst others, having a clear role in the development of nation-wide city energy data, in facilitating energy efficiency programmes in different sectors in several municipalities, in promoting renewable energy (often rooftop solar PV) in several major cities, and in institutionalizing sustainable energy and climate change issues within municipalities.
Drawing on the above experience, the SAMSET project is working with African municipalities at a detailed level in partnership with universities and development organisations in Africa and the UK, and six municipalities in Uganda, Ghana and South Africa. This collaboration walks the full process of systemic change with the municipalities, and focuses the lens of research and implementation support on this inadequately understood, yet critical, arena – the detailed dynamics in the belly of the local government beast.
David Mann from Uganda Martyrs University describes the recent Resilient Cities Roundtable in Kampala.
Recently, I had the opportunity to represent the SAMSET project at the Resilient Cities Roundtable organised at Makerere University by the Embassy of France in Kampala. The aim of the forum was to give a platform for the discussion of research around innovations to develop green infrastructure, to meet the growing demand for energy, and to reduce pollution in cities. Guests of honor included the Executive Director of Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) and the French Ambassador to Uganda.
This was also an opportunity to introduce the RUBAFRIQUE network which features scholars from around Africa engaged in collaborative research, open debate, and other activities to advance the understanding of urban environments and their socio-ecological dynamics to promote better-informed decision making. An explicit goal is to bridge the gap between Anglophone and Francophone researchers – hence the membership of universities in Cameroon, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, France, Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda.
In the SAMSET presentation I included an overview of the project objectives, partners, and outputs as well as preliminary results from the energy model for Jinja. Other interesting panelist presentations included Master Planning to cope with floods in Dar Es Salaam, Conservation of urban forests in Nairobi, Non-motorised urban transport planning in Uganda, and Local industrial-scale production of charcoal briquettes as an alternative to traditional wood charcoal. KCCA has partnered with the French technical research agency ADETEF to carry out an energy audit of street lighting and administrative buildings in the capital, the results of which could be very interesting for the SAMSET team.
We learned also that the University of Nairobi is launching a new Master’s Programme on Urbanisation which will include a module on Energy in Cities for which they are currently seeking qualified lecturers. It seems that there is a renewed interest in urban energy transitions and that academia is just catching up to the demand.
Xavier Lemaire and Daniel Kerr from UCL, and Yachika Reddy from SEA, recently met with Maurisha Hammer and Zwelethu Zulu, representatives from the Cape Town Municipal Electricity Department’s Electrification Division, to discuss the city’s approach to the electrification of informal settlements, and the challenges facing informal settlement electrification across South Africa.
The Cape Town approach to informal settlement electrification is pioneering compared to the approaches of other countries and metropolitan areas. Informal settlement electrification is under a separate project management procedure to that of formal settlement electrification in the municipality. Formal settlements are project managed by developers, housing associations and “Section 21” companies, which are non-profit housing project developers. Informal settlement electrification is directly project-managed by the Electrification Department, and projects are selected in-situ, i.e. any existing informal settlement has the potential to be electrified under the Council approved Residential Electricity Reticulation policy that requires that it is a stable settlement (i.e. not transient) and has not been identified for upgrading or relocation . To be considered for electrification, an informal settlement may not be situated
in a road or rail reserve or in a servitude, unless otherwise permitted by land owner;
in an area below the 1:50 year flood return period contour;
in a storm water detention pond; or
on unstable land.
This approach is in contrast to other countries’ and cities’ experiences with informal settlement electrification. For example, while cases exist for “slum” electrification in India (notably Chennai and Mumbai) and Thailand (Bangkok), these are processes dependant on the formalisation of property rights for informal dwellers. Part of the rationale behind the Cape Town approach is to do with the constitutional mandate for municipalities in South Africa to provide basic municipal services (electricity, water, sanitation, and refuse management) to all inhabitants of the municipality. Whilst funding constraints prevent the fulfilment of this mandate in many municipalities, Cape Town seems to be succeeding in doing so through this program.
Another major contributor to the success of the program is the community engagement aspect of informal settlement operations. Repeated meetings with community leaders, and notably members of the community themselves, throughout the duration of an electrification project, significantly contribute to investment and participation of the community in the project, nurturing trust in the services and engendering community spirit, cutting down on electricity theft and grid overloading. The opportunity is also used to get cooperation from the community to open up access ways in densely populated areas, not only to facilitate the installation of an electricity reticulation network but also to be maintained as access ways for health emergency services as well as the provision of other basic services such as water and sanitation where possible
The electrification of informal dwellings in the backyards of formal housing developments is a recent initiative. Two pilot projects have been successfully completed in what many regard as a first-of-its-kind program. The main challenge with these projects is the reinforcement of the existing reticulation network serving these properties. In most cases the additional load posed by backyard dwellings makes it necessary to replace the backbone infrastructure. At this stage the programme is restricted to backyard dwellings on properties owned by the City (rental housing) due to legal restrictions around enhancing private properties with public funds.
South African municipalities generate significant income from electricity distribution, and are responsible under their mandate to electrify urban areas, with rural areas under the jurisdiction of ESKOM, the national utility. Given the low rates of return for informal settlement electrification, for less affluent South African municipalities, replicating the Cape Town experience may prove challenging. While the electrification of informal settlements and backyard dwellings may not make financial sense if viewed with too narrow a perspective, the City emphasises wider benefits such as better living conditions, economic stimulation, health and safety, job creation and education opportunities. In view of the challenges faced with the delivery of free formal housing due to growing demand faced with urbanisation and historic spatial planning legacies amongst others in formal housing, informal housing has an important interim role to play and will not disappear overnight. It is with this knowledge that the City Of Cape Town decided more than a decade ago to provide electricity to those living in informal settlements.
In all, the Cape Town experience in informal electrification has useful implications for the SAMSET project. The management of informal electrification projects by the municipality has served to mitigate a number of risks inherent in informal settlement electrification, and this experience -under a number of conditions – could be cross-applied to great effect in other metropolitan areas in developing countries globally, particularly in the Sub-Saharan African context.
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.
Participants 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.
Mark Borchers on the launch of a new book, “Africa’s Urban Revolution”, the insights gained from the launch, and their relevance to the SAMSET project.
I was at the launch of the book Africa’s Urban Revolution recently. It has contributions from various authors associated with the African Centre for Cities (ACC) at the University of Cape Town, and covers a range of topics. Even though it does not have an energy focus, I found both the content of the book (tho I have just read a bit of it so far) and the discussions at the launch very interesting for the work on sustainable urban energy transitions which we are engaged in.
The presenters, Edgar Pieterse (director of the ACC) and Caroline Wanjiku Khato (School of Architecture and Planning at the University of Witwatersrand) emphasised that urbanisation in Africa is an issue of global concern given the pace at which it is occurring and the severe lack of capacity of authorities to meet the associated service demands. This we know, but I found it interesting that mainstream academia knows it too! In addition, African urbanisation is distinct from any other such process elsewhere in the world, often rendering existing approaches to urbanisation issues not useful. In no particular order, the following challenges struck me as potentially relevant:
– In many urban areas a significant proportion of the population regard their homes as elsewhere, and they subsist in the town or city and send remittances back to their homes, where their heart remains. So while they are present in the city, they are not investing in it. It is unclear what this does to the local economy and the tax base and service delivery demands on municipalities.
– In the absence of municipal capacity, informal social and economic systems can be quite strong, for example including land registers and social support systems, often via the church. Given that official capacity is unlikely to change drastically in the medium-term, such ingenuity and creativity may be one of the foundations for sustainable urbanisation in Africa rather than relying on more formal structures and systems.
– The urban agenda is often not high on national government’s priority list, sometimes because opposition parties are often able to first gain support in bigger urban areas, thus not endearing such to the ruling party. In one case, national government apparently effectively set up a department to run the capital city, thus ‘hollowing out’ the politically distinct local government’s power.
– Informality is sometimes regarded as an aberration to be rid of by national government. One presenter described how he was invited to the African Development Bank forum for minister’s in 2006, where urban issues were on the agenda for the first time (!). One Housing Minister, who had recently displaced half a million informal dwellers in their capital city through demolishing their settlements, received a standing ovation when he justified this act on the basis of ‘restoring the dignity’ of the city. So the plight of the poor in informal settlements may not always receive enthusiastic national support.
The above snippets obviously only present a partial picture, but some of them are useful in flagging that different players can have very different perspectives on issues, and we need to be sensitive to these. I know in the South African context all of the above are relevant to a greater or lesser degree in different places.
There’s lots more useful information in the book if you are interested.
Book information: Africa’s Urban Revolution. Edited by Susan Parnell and Edgar Pieterse of the University of Cape Town African Centre for Cities. Published by UCT Press in 2014. ISBN: 978 177582 076 5