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Environment

A new understanding of urban sustainability pathways in Africa

Shuaib lwasa

Nationality Ugandan

Year of selection 2017

Institution Makerere University / Department of Geography Geo-Informatics and Climatic Sciences

Country Uganda

Risk Environment

AXA Awards

3 years

250000 €

Cities are at the forefront of the transition to sustainable development. The ones yet to be built hold the greatest potential for transformative change in that they can be fundamentally re-thought. With its rapid urbanisation, Africa is one of the most promising regions in the world when it comes to leap-frogging to sustainability. Of all continents, it is also the one that stands to see the harshest impacts from Climate change. To contribute to ensuring the opportunity is rightly seized, Dr. Shuaib Lwasa is leading a scientific program exploring the various possibilities of transition in the city of Kampala, Uganda. Starting from the premise that urban development can only be sustainable when it is accompanied by measures designed to reduce poverty, social exclusion and environmental problems, his research adopts an integrated approach, looking to synergise strategies. What is more,  the research team aims to pay particular attention to micro-level innovations, the informal sector and how they link to the city-regional macro level. The overarching goal of the project is to generate new understanding on possible urban sustainability pathways in Africa.

 « The informal sector is a critical part of African cities, something that is often looked at as negative », Dr. Shuaib Lwasa says. « Our team postulates that informality actually is the city and that, to address sustainability in an integrated manner, building upon the informal and mixing it with the formal may offer great possibilities ». Africa’s informal sector, or underground economy, is indeed one of the most innovative and inventive environments in the world. Building upon it holds out great promise in areas as diverse as energy, adaptation to climate change, urban agriculture and ecosystem restoration. « Integration strategies is often misconstrued to occur at city-level », Dr. Shuaib Lwasa explains. « Yet micro level innovations can build integrated systems from below for sustainability ».

 Kampala : the case study of a recently expanded African metropolitan city

 The research team will conduct its work in Uganda’s largest city, Kampala. As a recently expanded metropolitan, Kampala is bracing for great opportunities as well as great challenges, especially in the context of climate change. The project is designed on the basis of three research pillars. The first will focus on how micro-to-meso scale technologies and policy options can reduce the risk posed by climate extremes. Flooding being one the major risks to the city, measures such as rainwater harvesting, grassed drainages, or cascade drainage design will be explored. The second pillar will focus on energy transitions at household level, looking to synergise local innovative solutions with city-level policy. Methods of tapping energy from organic wastes, including faecal sludge, will be explored through a business model lens that would have co-benefits of integrating poor members of the urban Kampala into the urban economy. The third research pillar will focus on ecosystem enhancement and the assessment of the potential for restoration in the expanded city-region. Options for green urban economy development will also be explored.

 The ultimate objective of the program is to establish a “Centre of Excellence” in urban sustainability with a knowledge hub, a network of researchers, communities and actors who are resilience ready. Dissemination is central to the program. Workshops will regularly be organised to share insights with the aim of getting things moving faster. Kampala being one of the leading African cities in the fight against Climate change, Dr. Shuaib Lwasa’s endeavour to lay the foundations for the development of integrated urban strategies will likely receive widespread attention, not just in Uganda but also at continent level.