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ICLEI Africa’s IMPACT team holds fruitful discussions in Blantyre, Malawi

It is now widely accepted that the development of resilient cities will depend on ways of collaborating. One of the seven key principles of resilience is participation according to Biggs et al. (2016)(1). The aim of the IMPACT (Improved Municipal Planning in African Cities) project is to translate this principle into decision making processes, particularly those linked to municipal planning that builds climate resilience.

The IMPACT project team members from ICLEI Africa had their first learning engagement in Blantyre from 14 to 17 May 2018. This engagement focused on government stakeholders, with 13 high-level officials attending.

Blantyre is the oldest urban centre in Malawi. One of the main challenges facing the city is that sixty five percent of the city’s population lives in informal settlements. Local government is determined to deal with this, in alignment with Malawi’s vision that “by the year 2020 Malawi as a God fearing nation, will be secure, democratically mature, environmentally sustainable, self-reliant with equal opportunities for and active participation by all, having social services, vibrant cultural and religious values and a technologically driven middle-income economy”. Government stakeholders acknowledged that to achieve this vision, they will need to include involvement of communities and other stakeholders in the planning of their city.

Collaboration and participation is a historic African tradition. Collaboration is a process that makes it possible to capture the ideas and energies that diverse people wish to express. Collaboration is essential in urban centres, in bringing different stakeholders together, with innovative ideas to tackle the city’s challenges; these include issues such as how to deal with climate change impacts, while delivering services, under resource constrained environments.

During the recent engagement in Blantyre, stakeholders discussed the following:
- How do we collaborate around these issues, and is there a story we can all share that justifies our collaboration?
- How do we develop an Africa that is climate resilient, together?, and
- How do we involve everyone in decision making processes, so that everyone is heard?

During their visit, the team engaged in a stakeholder mapping exercise, where officials engaged and debated who the key decision makers involved in the different sectors are. They also began compiling a database of collaboration mechanisms, which will be built upon throughout the project and be interrogated, for learnings applicable to the project cities and beyond, with regards to what makes these mechanisms successful or not, and how they can be improved and up-scaled, particularly in relation to building climate resilience. Research data was gathered throughout the engagement events, and the team will be analysing the data in the coming weeks.

The IMPACT project was well received and ICLEI Africa was encouraged by the general consensus that collaboration within Blantyre is needed. In closing, Dr Emmanuel Kanjunjunju, Director of Health at the Blantyre City Council, said: ‘We look forward to more iterations so we add to the body of knowledge generated in this project’.

(1) The other 6 principles are: Maintain diversity and redundancy, manage connectivity, manage slow variables and feedbacks, foster complex adaptive thinking, encourage learning, promote polycentric governance……

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