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Highlights of Urban Africa in Action at COP27

Climate change will undoubtedly present one of the most significant risks to Africa’s development objectives over the next decade and COP27 further highlighted this. African cities are already acting to combat climate change but these actions need to be scaled via access to increased finance.

At COP27 in the Local Governments and Municipal Authorities (LGMA) Constituency’s  Multilevel Action Pavilion and partner pavilions in the Blue Zone, ICLEI Africa and partners convened a series of sessions focused on Urban Africa in Action at COP27, which brought together leaders from all levels of government, and a wide range of technical experts to discuss, share good practice, and showcase tangible, context-specific solutions to challenges facing urban areas in Africa.

Cities and regions are first responders to the climate emergency and their role is critical to achieving international climate change targets and goals. The Urban Africa in Action at COP27 sessions covered a range of pertinent topics, corresponding with the COP27 thematic days. Each session provided a unique opportunity to showcase the realities that local governments are facing and the needs of the continent, as well as solutions that are already being implemented and could be scaled. 

Below are highlights from each Urban Africa in Action session, as well as a snapshot of high-level speaking engagements and bilaterals held by the ICLEI Africa team at COP27.

Wednesday 9 November – FINANCE DAY

Unpacking the urban climate finance journey: Linking policy and planning to a pipeline of bankable projects

Speakers:

  • Ms Kenalemang Phukuntsi, Mayor of Tswelopele Municipality, South Africa
  • Dr Manuel de Araújo, Mayor of Quelimane Municipality, Mozambique
  • Mr Mthobeli Kolisa, Chief Officer: Infrastructure Delivery, Spatial Transformation Services, and Inclusive Communities, South African Local Governments Association (SALGA)
  • Dr Olufunso Somorin, Regional Principal Officer for Climate Change, East Africa, African Development Bank 
  • Dr Chantal Naidoo, Lead Researcher, Presidential Climate Finance Task Team, South Africa
  • Ms Jacinda Washington Nijike, Africa Business Engagement Director, UN Climate Change High-Level Champions
  • Dr Meggan Spires, Director: Climate Change, Energy and Resilience, ICLEI Africa

 

Even though specific climate finance mechanisms for cities are available, particularly through development finance institutions, challenges still exist in taking suitable project concepts to financial close, and ultimately breaking ground. Knowledge broker organisations such as ICLEI Africa play a key role in working with both financial institutions and governments to unlock climate finance at the local level where climate change impacts are felt and carbon emissions generated.

Session convened by ICLEI Africa with:

“ICLEI Africa and partners are moving – currently in our pipeline we have 4 projects worth $160 million that, with UK PACT support, we have taken to the pre-feasibility stage.” – Dr Meggan Spires, Director: Climate Change, Energy and Resilience, ICLEI Africa

Thursday 10 November – SCIENCE DAY | YOUTH AND FUTURE GENERATIONS DAY

Improving resilience in African cities: the role of youth and research

Speakers:

  • Dr Manuel de Araújo, Mayor of Quelimane Municipality, Mozambique
  • Ms Carine Buma, Professional Officer: Climate Change, Energy and Resilience, ICLEI Africa
  • Ms Aminetou Bilal, North Africa lead, the United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth
  • Ms Nisreen El Saim, Chair of UN Secretary General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change
  • Dr Tolullah Oni, Programme Lead, the Global Diet and Physical Activity Group and Network at the University of Cambridge
  • Mr Nii Noi Omaboe, Green Africa Youth Organisation, Programmes Officer
  • Mr Samuel Egube, Honourable Commissioner, Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget, Lagos State
  • Mr Paul Currie, Associate Director: Urban Systems, ICLEI Africa

Disenfranchisement of young people is one of the biggest barriers to achieving resilience. If we are not equipping youth to contribute to society, to push boundaries, and to set the terms of the societies that they will inherit, we will not be building the cities we want. Let us not dismiss youth as outsider activists and antagonists, but create the space to welcome their critique, their legitimate outrage, and their voice. We must also embrace them as innovators who are working within our institutions, whose voices must be heard. We need to harness the ingenuity, the eagerness to learn, and the ideas that we see in youth. We need to enable youth to contribute to research and action. Let us ensure that we are practising intergenerational learning and co-leadership as we face the climate crisis together.

“It is impossible for you to lead without young people. In the Lagos cabinet there are many young people leading. If you want to understand Lagos, you need to speak to the youth” – Mr Samuel Egube, Honourable Commissioner, Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget, Lagos State

Friday 11 November – DECARBONISATION DAY

Harnessing technology to accelerate data-driven climate action in Africa

Speakers:

  • Mr Adam Elman, Head of Sustainability, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Google
  • Dr Meggan Spires, Director: Climate Change Energy and Resilience, ICLEI Africa
  • Cllr Brandon Pretorius, Member of the Mayoral Committee, City of Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality
  • Mr Abdoulaye Sylla, Director: Planning and Sustainable Development, City of Dakar
  • Mr Maximus Ugwuoke, City Advisor for Lagos, C40 Cities 
  • Mr Mohamed Hegazy, Managing Director, Transport for Cairo
  • Ms Sandra Motshwanedi, Deputy Director of International Reporting on Climate Change, Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, National Government of South Africa
  • Ms Pren-Tsilya Boa-Guehe, Head of Pan-African Institutions, Google

African cities need data that recognise and reflect reality, including informal systems and services. Even where these data do exist, they are seldom centralised, accessible, and shared across institutions and stakeholders that require them, making evidence-based climate planning and collaboration across sectors and levels of government difficult. In this context, tools such as Google’s Environmental Insights Explorer play an important role in offering city decision-makers clear information about their climate profiles, including where potential action (such as for sustainable transport) can be taken. Bringing its experience of the complexities of governance in African cities, ICLEI Africa is now partnering with Google and cities across the continent to use the Environmental Insights Explorer to support evidence-based climate action in Africa.

Session convened by ICLEI Africa with:

Google has data available for over 6000 African cities accessible through the Environmental Insights Explorer. However, data is just the first step. Working with our partner, ICLEI Africa, is key to ensuring our data is useful and driving impact for cities.” – Mr Adam Elman (Head of Sustainability – EMEA, Google)

Saturday 12 November – AGRICULTURE AND ADAPTATION DAY

Integrating a food systems lens into urban climate resilience initiatives

Speakers:

  • Mr Paul Currie, Associate Director: Urban Systems, ICLEI Africa (Moderator)
  • Mr Divine Njie, Deputy Director of the Food Systems and Food Safety Division, FAO
  • Ms Kobie Brand, Regional Director, ICLEI Africa, and Deputy Secretary General, ICLEI
  • Mr Ndiagne Diop, Mayor of Bambilor, Senegal
  • Ms Souad Ben Abderrahim, Mayor of Tunis, Tunisia
  • Dr Manuel de Araújo, Mayor of Quelimane, Mozambique
  • Ms Dana Omran, Global Director Strategy and Operations/Regional Director Africa, Resilient Cities Network
  • Mr Emmanuel Dennis, Founder, Green Teams Initiative

For the first time at Climate COP, food was a central priority. This session explored how food and adaptation priorities could be mainstreamed at the local level, and how food can contribute to building urban resilience. Important initiatives mentioned by the panel included actively demonstrating the value of nature and investing in more green space that can keep citizens healthy, reduce the urban heat island effect and improve water infiltration; tracking and repurposing food waste; building public engagement and the culture of participative planning; and actively developing food strategies in alignment with national and regional processes. The conversation proposed several linkages for improving co-benefits between food and climate change adaptation. It also celebrated the work done by FAO and ICLEI to connect national and local efforts for improving food security in cities, and re-emphasised the importance of collective, multilevel action for sustainable urban food systems in Africa.

Session convened by ICLEI Africa with:

Policy coherence between local & national level is necessary to further the urban food systems agenda – FAO with ICLEI is in the process of working closely with several African countries to bridge this national to local food governance gap”. – Mr Divine Njie, Deputy Director of the Food Systems and Food Safety Division, FAO

Monday 14 November – GENDER DAY | WATER DAY

Building Urban Water Resilience in Africa: Accelerating Investment and Catalyzing for Impact

Speakers:

  • Ms Kobie Brand, Regional Director, ICLEI Africa, and Deputy Secretary General, ICLEI
  • Mr Rogier van Den Berg, Acting Global Director, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities
  • Ms Aklilu Fikresilassie, Director for Thriving Resilient Cities, WRI Africa 
  • Dr Themba Gumbo, Director Cap-Net, UNDP
  • Mr Pudence Rubingisa, Mayor of the City of Kigali, Rwanda
  • Ms Doreen Nyanjura, Deputy Lord Mayor of Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), Uganda
  • Ms Susan Kihika, Governor of Nakuru County, Kenya
  • Ms Dana Omran, Resilient Cities Network, Global Director Strategy and Operations/Regional Director Africa
  • Mr Patrick Njoroge, Executive Director, Akiba Mashinani Trust
  • Ms Claire Seaward, Global Campaigns Director, WaterAid
  • Mr Mark Fletcher, Global Water Business Leader, ARUP

ICLEI and the World Resources Institute (WRI) together with partners launched the African Cities Water Adaptation (ACWA) Platform, with the aim of consolidating organisations’ efforts for improved water resilience, and channelling USD 5 billion towards urban water resilience solutions in 100 African cities by 2032. The ACWA Platform will act as a technical assistance and capacity building coalition for the African Cities Water Adaptation Fund (ACWA Fund). 

The ACWA Fund was launched later that day at the Race to Resilience 2030 Climate Implementation Lab, and its supporting coalition will enable city leaders to directly access funding and technical support to implement innovative solutions targeting a range of water issues to build resilience at the local level.

ICLEI Africa is very proud to be a core partner in the ACWA Platform and Fund.

Session convened by ICLEI Africa with:

“The ACWA platform provides an opportunity to put water at the forefront of adaptation & resilience. Water is a restructuring element in cities. We thank ICLEI for being such a strong partner & all of our other 23 partners” – Mr Rogier van Den Berg, Acting Global Director, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities

Tuesday 15 November – ACE AND CIVIL SOCIETY DAY | ENERGY DAY

Taking charge of Africa’s oceans and blue resources to mitigate the effects of climate change

Speakers:

  • Mr Khaled Fouda Siddiq Mohammed, Governor of South Sinai, Egypt
  • Ms Kate Brown, Executive Director, Global Island Partnership
  • Mr Jeremy Raguain, Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS)
  • Mr Théophile Bongarts, Project Manager, Sea’ties, Climate Change and Coastal Adaptation
  • Mr Stewart Sarkozy-Banoczy, Global Director, Policy and Investments, Resilient Cities Network
  • Mayor Seydina Issa Laye Sambe, Mayor of Yoff, Senegal
  • Dr Kate Strachan, Manager: Climate Change Resilience, ICLEI Africa

This session focused on coastal resilience: About 30 million Africans live within the flood hazard zone around the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, out of which 2 million are likely to be flooded each year. Climate change is commonly discussed as though it’s a uniquely atmospheric phenomenon. But the crisis is deeply entwined with the ocean, and this has largely been neglected not only in international climate talks but also in our planning. Cities and regions have an important role to play both in realising the potential of the blue economy and in preserving marine and freshwater ecosystems, conserving the ocean, boosting the use of renewable energy, preventing waste and protecting our coastal infrastructure. A sustainable ocean-based economy can play an essential role in the much needed carbon emission reductions, while providing jobs, supporting food security, sustaining biological diversity and enhancing resilience for our cities.

If we are going to thrive as a region, we need to take urgent ocean and climate action.

Session convened by ICLEI Africa with:

 

“We need to better understand ocean-related risks and shift our global response to anticipate & adapt to hazards, rather than addressing them post-disaster. As sea level rises, there is the urgent risk that settlements can wash away and that climate change risks will deprive communities of access to fresh water and cause catastrophic effects. Nature based solutions can play a vital role in addressing these risks. We need to understand that action for the oceans is action for climate resilience!” – Mr Khaled Fouda Siddiq Mohammed, Governor of South Sinai, Egypt

Wednesday 16 November – BIODIVERSITY DAY

Building urban resilience: Harnessing nature-based solutions for accelerating NDC’s in Africa

Speakers:

  • Dr Manuel de Araújo, Mayor of Quelimane, Mozambique
  • Dr Charles Konyango, National Director: Urban Development, Kenyan State Department for Housing and Urban Development
  • Ms Kobie Brand, Regional Director: ICLEI Africa, and Deputy Secretary General: ICLEI
  • Mr Jean-Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General: UCLG-Africa
  • Dr Marwa Ahmed Soliman, Head of International and Local Funding, Presidential Urban Development Fund, Egyptian Government
  • Mrs Noloyiso Walingo, Director: Environmental Services, North Region, Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa
  • Ms Joanna Mclean Masic, Global Lead for Sustainable City Infrastructure and Services, World Bank
  • Dr Robert Sangori, Deputy Director: Urban Development, Kenyan State Department for Housing and Urban Development
  • Dr Meggan Spires, Director: Climate Change, Energy and Resilience, ICLEI Africa

During this session, the Kenyan national government shared more on its cutting-edge building climate resilience for the urban poor (BCRUP) strategy, a first on the continent. It prioritises combating urban poverty by harnessing nature-based solutions (NbS) and innovative resilience practices. ICLEI Africa expressed its commitment to working with the Kenyan national government in taking this programme from Kenya to the world. NbS experiences were also shared from Quelimane municipality, Mozambique, and Kwa-Zulu Natal province, South Africa, as well as from the World Bank and the Egyptian Government’s Presidential Urban Development Fund.

Session convened by ICLEI Africa with:

 

“Without mangroves, my city would disappear. ICLEI has done a lot to help us with mapping out our city’s natural assets.” – Dr Manuel de Araújo, Mayor of Quelimane, Mozambique

Wednesday 16 November – BIODIVERSITY DAY

Building Resilience in African Cities to address Climate Emergencies: Finance, Food, Nature

Speakers:

  • Ms Loreley Picourt, Executive Director for the Ocean and Climate Platform
  • Professor Debra Roberts, IPCC WG II Co-chair
  • Mayor Fatimetou Abdel Malik, Mayor of the Regional Council of Nouakchott, Mauritania
  • Mayor Mohamed Sefiani, Mayor of Chefchaouen, Morocco
  • Mayor Chilando Chitangala, Mayor of Lusaka, Zambia
  • Lord Mayor Rohey Malick Lowe, Lord Mayor of Banjul City Council, the Gambia, and President of the Network of Local Women Elected in Africa (REFELA)
  • Mr Paul Currie, Associate Director: Urban Systems, ICLEI Africa
  • Mr Stéphane Pouffary, Chief Executive Officer, ENERGIES 2050
  • Mr Ronan Dantec, President of Climate Chance
  • Dr Meggan Spires, Director: Climate Change, Energy and Resilience, ICLEI Africa

This session, convened as an official UNFCCC side event focused on the fact that African cities (of all sizes) are experiencing unprecedented climate change impacts now. Unlocking finance, tackling food insecurity, and protecting nature, are central to building resilience in some of the world’s most vulnerable locales. How do we scale successes with reference to context? To build resilient cities, we need to: Adapt, prevent, absorb, recover, build anew and push the boundaries of what our cities can be. What ingredients do we need? Nexus and cross-sectoral perspectives, we need renewables, smart-tech, new modes of governance, one million trees, a junior mayor and 38 councillors, novel insurance mechanisms and FUNDING. What are the instructions? We must invest in women to lead and follow economic pursuits, control their own resources, land and financing. We must use food systems approaches to improve multiple climate resilience elements. We must focus on intermediate cities which need more support. We must account for and invest in informality. We must prioritise sustainable energy access and basic services to reduce poverty. We must work at multiple levels in the city to ensure we are not missing details. We must promote co-leadership with the youth. We must give power to the people and invite them into decision making. We must use resources wisely and serve multiple concerns at once. We must break down silos and seek unlikely partnerships. Finally, we must call for more financing to meet the needs of cities.

Session convened by ICLEI Africa with:

“Women are the most vulnerable to climate change impacts, especially in Africa. It is vital to consider the role women play in building resilient communities. Though women are victims of disaster they are also agents of change.Empower women & we will change the world!” – Ms Rohey Malick Lowe, Lord Mayor of Banjul City Council, the Gambia, and President of the Network of Local Women Elected in Africa (REFELA)

Wednesday 16 November – BIODIVERSITY DAY

The road to light African Cities : Exploring the impacts a sustainable energy transition will have for African cities, and the pathways to their fruition

Speakers:

  • Mayor Mohammed Sefiani, Mayor of Chefchaouen, Morocco
  • Mr Salmon Orimba, County Department of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Kisumu County, Kenya
  • Mr Thami Mabija, Head of Department of Economic Development and Tourism, Northern Cape Government, South Africa
  • Dr Olufunso Somorin, Regional Principal Officer for Climate Change, African Development Bank
  • Ms Lea Renalder, Associate Programme Officer, Human Settlements, UN-Habitat
  • Mr Ryan Roberts, Professional Officer: Climate Change, Energy and Resilience, ICLEI Africa

The clean energy transition provides an opportunity for subnational governments in Africa to improve the socio-economic conditions for residents, whilst ensuring the continent follows a low-carbon development pathway for its future populations. African cities are extremely diverse, and their specific needs differ quite drastically. Yet clean energy technologies can provide solutions for most of these local governments – such as improved energy access, cheaper and more stable energy supply and local industrial development. Crucial success factors to enable greater uptake of clean energy include: (a) improved access to finance for cities, emphasising the importance of building “financing ecosystems”, and (b) local governments leveraging partnerships and city networks to help develop clean energy projects. 

The Sustainable Urban Resilience for the next Generation (SURGe) Initiative, launched by the COP 27 Presidency, was introduced and its potential impact for subnational governments unpacked.

Session convened by ICLEI Africa with:

“In Africa we have more than 40% without access to energy. Energy for African cities is a priority & networks like ICLEI allow for cross-city learning & capacity building. MultilevelAction is key” – Mr Mohammed Sefiani, Mayor of Chefchaouen, Morocco

Thursday 17 November – SOLUTIONS DAY

Climate-related trade-offs: How do African cities navigate complex decision making during the climate change emergency

Speakers:

  • Mayor Chilando Chitangala, Mayor of Lusaka, Zambia
  • Ms Vera Kellen, Programme Manager for Climate Change, European Commission
  • Mr Gonzalo Vega Molina, Head of Department of Cooperation with Sub-Saharan Africa, AECID
  • Dr Abdourrahmane Maïkanti, Mayor of Garoua III, Cameroon
  • Deputy Lord Mayor Doreen Nyanjura, Deputy Lord Mayor of Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), Uganda
  • Mr David Howlett, Senior Adviser and Loss and Damage Lead for the Climate Champions Team, Race to Resilience
  • Dr Sarah Colenbrander, Director of the Climate and Sustainability Programme, Overseas Development Institute (ODI)
  • Mr Marcus Mayr, Principle Urban Development Officer, African Development Bank
  • Dr Meggan Spires, CoM SSA Secretariat

Cities in Sub-Saharan Africa, which represent 14% of the global population, are hardest hit by the impacts of climate change, but contribute the least to global GHG emissions. GDP exposure in African nations vulnerable to extreme climate patterns is projected to grow from $895 billion in 2018 to about $1.4 trillion in 2023 (nearly half of the continent’s GDP). 

This session was particularly pertinent at COP27, where the topic of loss and damage was high on the agenda. The combination of SSA’s vulnerability to interacting polycrises, such as climate change, biodiversity loss and increasing pollution levels, with lack of resources to deal with these crises, means that every dollar spent in the region, has to be spent wisely. With so many competing priorities and with win-win scenarios in short supply, trade-offs result and SSA city decision makers are thus making difficult decisions every day. Responses to climate change can be planned to maximise synergies and limit trade-offs with other sustainable development goals. The integration of synergies, trade-offs and co-benefits in climate change project design is becoming a central requirement for many funders (e.g. the Green Climate Fund). 

Session convened by:

Other key speaking engagements:

  • 6 Nov – ICLEI Press Conference and Call-to-Action
  • 6 Nov – LGMA Pavilion opening plenary session
  • 8 Nov – LGMA Urban Africa opening session
  • 8 Nov – The Neverending Story: A quest for the sustainable cities of tomorrow
  • 8 Nov – Exploring compound climate-fragility risks in conflict prevention, mitigation, and recovery
  • 9 Nov – Marrakesh Partnership Implementation Lab: The imperative for subnational financing
  • 9 Nov – Local Initiatives on Green and Smart Projects
  • 10 Nov – Marrakesh Partnership Implementation Lab: Changing the Paradigm: Harnessing multiple benefits from reducing and valorising waste
  • 10 Nov – Marrakech Partnership Action Event: Sharm el Sheikh Adaptation Agenda: The Opportunity to Accelerate System Transformation for Resilience (UN Climate Champions)
  • 12 Nov – Feeding the city for healthy people, landscapes, and climate
  • 12 Nov – How to feed our cities? Integrating a food systems lens into discussions of urban climate resilience interventions
  • 14 Nov – Building Urban Water Resilience in Africa: Accelerating investment and catalysing action (ACWA Platform launch – ICLEI, WRI, UN Climate Champions)
  • 14 Nov – Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework and the Climate-Biodiversity Nexus
  • 14 Nov – Catalysing innovative finance for strengthened water resilience in African cities (ACWA Fund launch)
  • 15 Nov – Launching the Multistakeholder partnership for the elimination of open waste burning from Africa
  • 15 Nov – Cities as testbeds and trailblazers of innovation
  • 16 Nov – Building Urban Resilience: Harnessing nature-based solutions for accelerating NDCs in Africa
  • 16 Nov – Hearing the Voice of Subnational Governments: Learning from the Edinburgh Declaration for Biodiversity
  • 16 Nov – Mobilising for a Climate Neutral and Nature-Positive World Ahead of COP15
  • 16 Nov – Nature-based Solutions: Tools, knowledge and partnerships to address climate change
  • 16 Nov – Marrakech Partnership Implementation Lab – Building Resilient Infrastructure along the Coast (UN Climate Champions)
  • 17 Nov – Action towards a zero-emission, circular, and resilience built environment and cities for everyone, everywhere
  • 17 Nov – Launch of the Solutions for Cities Guide
  • 17 Nov – Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action – Human Settlements Pathway Action Event” (UN Climate Champions, ICLEI & GlobalABC session)
  • 17 Nov – Tackling Urbanization, Climate Change and Poverty in Cities through Circular Economy
  • 17 Nov – City region food systems: strengthening resilience against multiple shocks and stresses

A few of the high-level bilaterals held:

  • SwedBio: To discuss mutual areas of support, such as the intersection of nature-based solutions and climate change.
  • The African Development Bank (AfDB): To discuss how finance for urban climate change action can be unlocked with increased scale in Africa.
  • The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF): To discuss how finance that assists cities deal with climate change impacts, which are felt at the local level, can be unlocked at scale.
  • Governorate of South Sinai: To show appreciation to the Governor for hosting COP27 in Sharm el Sheikh, to discuss coordinated actions regarding the upcoming CBD COP15, and to discuss which actions can make the South Sinai region more resilient when facing climate change.
  • City of Tunis: To discuss how female African Mayors can drive gender equality and champion advocating for more inclusivity on the continent.
  • WRI: To celebrate the successful launches of the ACWA platform and fund, and explore ways to further strengthen WRI-ICLEI collaborations and impact.
  • Lagos State: To celebrate the launch of the Lagos State Adaptation Strategy, and explore ideas for deepening impact of sustainability work across the State.
  • UDF Egypt: To discuss shared areas of support, such as the integration of sustainability criteria in UDF projects.
  • Moroccan delegation: To discuss how Moroccan regions and cities can achieve their ambitious climate change targets while ensuring social and economic development.
  • UNHabitat Egypt: To discuss how to support the sustainable urban development agenda in Egypt and how to strengthen cooperation between the two organisations. 
  • City of Dakar: To discuss how the city of Dakar can implement its ambitious projects to address climate change, the role it can play in championing the sustainable urban development agenda in the French speaking region and the continent.