Tag Archives: Urban Planning

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.


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.

SAMSET News – June 2014 – Second Network Meeting

Xavier Lemaire from UCL summarises the second SAMSET Network Meeting.

The second SAMSET network meeting took place in Ghana on the 14-16 May 2014. During this meeting, representatives from each municipality partner of the project have described the situation of their town and their expectations for this research-action project.

The six African municipalities – Cape Town and Polokwane (South Africa), Kasese and Jinja (Uganda), Ga East and Awutu Senya East (Ghana) – tend to face considerable difficulties to exert control on land use due to important internal and international migration combined with an important internal population growth rate.

Parnter Municipalities Map

In all countries, power supply does not cope with the demand and power cuts can be frequent which raises the question of the effectiveness of demand-side management policies; some municipalities also face constraints in terms of supply of water which will become even more acute in the near future; waste management can be an important unresolved issue; traffic congestion is also widespread due to the lack of public transport and cannot be solved by just implementing more infrastructure.

It was also emphasized during this meeting how data used by municipalities were inaccurate and misleading because of the importance of the informal sector, and that municipalities were always behind the fast changing situation on the ground. With yearly budgets planned according to the situation at a given time, but implemented with delays, flexibility in planning procedures was needed to allow the taking into account of changes that have occurred in the recent past, and not just to factor the growth rate of the municipality.

It has been underlined that data to be collected for the research did not need to be complete at the beginning of the project, because data collection was an on-going process and that data will get better once they have been started to be collected.

Each of the municipalities have taken the opportunity of this meeting to detail their specific issues and how they try to deal with them, particularly detailing and starting to compare their approach in terms of planning and electrification. After these first exchanges, further network meetings will help to design and implement effective strategies.


Members of the SAMSET Team in Ghana, May 2014

“Africa’s Urban Revolution” and African Urban Challenges

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

Smaller Municipalities Today are Potential Mega Metropolises of Tomorrow: The Need for Climate Change Resilient Approaches

Simon Bawakyillenuo and Innocent Komla Agbelie from the University of Ghana on the recent IPCC “Key Roles of Cities in Climate Resilience” report.

Terence Creamer’s article entitled New report highlights key role of cities in building climate resilience[1] sheds light on the report ‘Climate Change 2014: Impact, Adaptation and Vulnerability’ produced by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group II. Quoted in the article, during a post-publication briefing, Dr. Debra Roberts, one of the authors of the ‘Urban Areas’ chapter of the report, warned that “urban areas are at risk and vulnerable to climate change simply because they have so many eggs in the basket in urban areas: the majority of people now live in cities; the bulk of our infrastructure is in cities”. Dr. Roberts noted further that “cities offer us one of the single greatest opportunities for global adaptation, if we get our act together around urban development and any step taken to improve the resilience of urban areas has the potential to greatly increase the global ability to adapt to climate change”. Adding a different dimension, Dr. Bob Scholes, an ecologist at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Systems cautioned that adaptation to climate change alone would have limitations, hence, the need to combine it with “early and aggressive mitigation actions” to tackle not only “how much the climate changes, but also how fast it changes”

Indeed, evidence abounds today, manifesting that cities such as Chicago in the U.S.A, Leicester in the UK, and Ekurhuleni in South Africa have made huge investments in retrofit programmes for public buildings as a way of reducing energy use, since energy consumption is a key driver of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. Other innovations such as the Bus Rapid Transit system in Mexico City, biogas-powered buses in Lille, France and the solar-powered municipal bus fleet in Adelaide, Australia are all green strategies being introduced into city structures to enhance the mitigation of GHG emission as well as improve the resilience of these urban areas. The adoption of these clean and efficient technologies by the cities, which serve the dual purposes of climate change mitigation and adaption strategies are in sync with Dr. Debra Roberts’ views. Since cities are the highest contributors of GHG emissions, strong leadership and institutional set-ups are required to initiate innovative approaches that will embrace the dual purposes of adaptation to climate change and mitigation of GHG emissions. While existing mega cities will need to reorient their strategies and approaches, the lessons and opportunities, perhaps for local authorities of smaller cities and municipalities are that, they can leapfrog the fundamental mistakes of mega cities by pursuing development agenda that will involve meticulous planning, adoption of policies that will be clean and efficient technology driven as well as improving resilience to climate change.

It goes without saying that today’s mega cities are more complicated, structurally and institutionally compared to smaller cities; which therefore make it difficult to apply the same technologies, processes and scientific approaches to tackling what may seem homogeneous problems facing the two types of cities. Thus, a more proactive approach to building climate conscious cities and municipalities is the need for them to adopt adaptation and mitigation measures that are within their means, resource-wise. While mega cities need to integrate more climate friendly technologies into their existing structures in order to upgrade them to climate compatible levels, smaller cities and municipalities, having not developed complicated structures can just begin developing their structures with climate compatible elements, being mainstreamed in them.

The SAMSET project’s approach of supporting municipalities from three countries with varied setups in terms of size, structure and institutional arrangements, with sustainable energy transition paths, is laudable in building climate resilience in the selected municipalities and, therefore speaks to the views of Dr. Debra Roberts. The selected smaller municipalities on the SAMSET project, which are considered alongside other larger cities, are obviously potential mega cities in the future. Thus, these smaller municipalities are well placed in shaping their development trajectories in the right directions and protecting their fragile infrastructure by drawing lessons from the bigger municipalities that have faced numerous climate change issues. In effect, the SAMSET project has an enviable opportunity of impacting positively on climate change resilient approaches of all partner municipalities especially, the smaller cities through building the capacity of their personnel to come up with informed decisions, strategies and approaches to develop clean and efficient technologies.

[1]Available at: http://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/new-report-highlights-key-role-of-cities-in-building-climate-resilience-2014-03-31

The Challenges of Low Carbon Urban Development

Mark Borchers from SEA comments on the C40 City Mayors Summit, held in Johannesburg in February.

There are plenty of ideas about low carbon urban development. These tend to circulate in policy documents, reviews and conference presentations. The challenge is to take these ideas and let them take root and gain life in the messy engine rooms of cities where the aircon may have been broken for many months, the average qualification basic, a receptionist painting their nails, the engineer gone and the finance officer unwilling to do anything new. It may take 3 months just to appoint a staff member; up to six months to issue a tender and appoint a contractor. I have heard of instances where money for retrofit of public lighting ended up paying staff salaries; and funds for solar water heating installation could not be spent as there was no engineer to sign off that the houses could structurally bear the load.

Scratch the surface, however, and there is also a wealth of experience, irreplaceable on-ground technical knowledge and institutional memory. I have also experienced, across almost every municipality in South Africa at least, a massive commitment to meet the environmental challenges facing us.

In February city leaders met in Johannesburg for the C40 City Mayors Summit. Political analysts Richard Calland and Jerome van Rooij (‘African cities need to work together’) posed the question: will African cities be able to ‘catch the wave’ of cities being “where it’s at” with regard to sustainable development and green-growth, given their fiscal and political/legal limitations? Not without a major gearing up, they conclude.

SAMSET aims to address this, following a model that has been enormously successful in South Africa to date: taking an sustainable energy/urban development idea, working on it hand in hand with city staff; when it hits a snarl-up, deepening the investigation, exploring a number of possibilities and moving closer to a solution – a programme of real intervention. As the work happens, the finance begins to flow in, the capacity to do the work expands, new offices develop and the institution reconfigures itself. Incremental, but potentially powerful.

Municipalities: The Cities of Tomorrow

Alex Ndibwami of Uganda Martyrs University offers his perspective on urbanisation in Uganda, and its energy challenges.

Today’s municipalities as we know them are the cities of tomorrow.  I have come to terms with the fact that cities are inevitable but, much as development of any sorts borrows from global trends, it is also possible to plan how sustainably a society will harness the resources the environment provides.  If only as a warning, it has been predicted that the least developed countries unfortunately, will have the least resilience in the event of any [imminent] natural disasters – the consequence of a wasteful attitude toward our natural resources.

Top of the list of resources is energy, or rather where it is harnessed.  Energy at a social level contributes to how we live, how we work, how we relate, how we think and how we consume.  But for some time and now, today – the main question is about how efficiently it is used and how accessible it is.

In Uganda, like any other (Sub-Saharan African) society, there are a number of different sources of energy and end uses.  Hydro is a ‘popular’ albeit unreliable source of energy and in households for example, this electricity: is used for lighting, cooking, among other household needs or luxuries.  Nationally though, wood based fuel is the most utilised resource because it is not only affordable, but fits within the traditional way of living and preparing meals.  The urban dimension of things however, requires us to look beyond that household threshold to how accessible for example electricity is and how efficiently oil/gas is used and perhaps what alternatives there are in order to mitigate the impacts of (uncontrolled) consumption at both domestic and commercial scale.

But, this is not a concern of many a consumer, because all they need to know is how to survive.  Research initiatives are one way to fill this gap – to advance knowledge on how to deal with some of these issues.  As such, it is a great privilege to be part of such a formidable team.  Indeed, SAMSET is well situated to cater to as wide a context for Africa in West Africa (Ghana), East Africa (Uganda) and Southern Africa (South Africa); and such seasoned partners from the United Kingdom.  The Faculty of the Built Environment at Uganda Martyrs University is committed to research on energy and SAMSET adds an action-oriented dimension for which we are eager to undertake.  The level of service delivery and how far issues to do with energy are understood varies in each context; what is common though is that it ought to be improved.  In this regard, the first network meeting reiterated the need for a careful stakeholder analysis and appreciation of cultures of reception.  As such, for SAMSET to make significant strides, the selection of stakeholders has to take into account the contribution they will make and how strategically situated they are – in local government, community based organisations and the like.  In addition, we will be dealing with municipal councils and their constituents whose context we have to appreciate for them to embrace any interventions.

We look forward to a successful project.