Planning a new urban research programme for SEI Africa

Africa, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, is experiencing unprecedentedly rapid urbanization coupled with accelerating population growth. Africa is currently the fastest growing and fastest urbanizing continent: its total population is projected to increase from around one billion in 2010 to almost to 2 billion by 2040 and eventually reach 4.2 billion by 2100 (UNDESA 2013). The continent’s urban population is forecast to increase from 400 million in 2010 to 1.26 billion by 2050 (UN-HABITAT 2014). This demographic change is already posing myriad challenges for African cities. Growing pressure on natural resources combined with weak urban planning and management institutions, and inadequate governance systems hinder attempts to improve basic service delivery, reduce urban poverty and restrict the proliferation of informal settlements. If not addressed appropriately, these challenges will continue to degrade the quality of life and the environment in urban areas. There is a pressing need to research these multifaceted and complex challenges, and to explore opportunities for sustainable urbanization in order to inform Africa’s policymakers and urban and regional planners. To help to identify and support more sustainable urbanization pathways, Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) Africa is developing a research programme on Managing Urban Change. This scoping study reviews existing SEI expertise on urban issues and identifies the existing and potential research areas and partners that SEI Africa should concentrate on as it develops this new programme. The scoping study methodology involved desktop research to map the SEI projects on urban issues listed on SEI’s website and its project monitoring and evaluation and communication (PMEC) system; an Internet search for potential partners working on urban sustainability issues in Africa; and a literature review of urban project-related materials and publications on urbanization in Africa. This was complemented by interviews with SEI’s leaders of urban projects and with SEI partners involved in urban issues in sub-Saharan Africa. The study was carried out between October 2014 and April 2015.



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