The 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 study mapped SEI projects on urban issues through web-based research and SEI’s project monitoring and evaluation and communication (PMEC) system. The authors also researched potential partners working on urban sustainability issues in Africa, and did 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.

Three key findings emerged from the study. First, SEI has diverse expertise in sustainable urbanization. Second, external partnerships appear to have been prioritized over cross-centre collaboration. Third, there are some knowledge gaps in SEI’s work on sustainable urbanization. For example there has been little or no research in a number of important geographical regions, for example in Central and West Africa.

The authors make four key recommendations on the design and focus of SEI Africa’s Managing Urban Change programme:

  • Replicate existing SEI urban projects in African countries, such as those on urban water use (urban metabolism); resilient water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) systems; social impact assessments of new infrastructure; urban GHG emissions inventories and assessments of GHG abatement potential, climate change vulnerability and adaptation planning.
  • Explore selected strategic research areas, such as water resources and sustainable sanitation; waste management; household energy; sustainable mobility and urban air pol- lution; urban governance; urban planning and development; climate change mitigation and adaptation; disaster risk reduction and urban resilience; inclusive and liveable cities; green infrastructure; urban and peri-urban agriculture; and urban-rural linkages.
  • Pursue research in all sub-Saharan African regions (Central and West Africa as well as East and Southern Africa) and undertake comparative studies between cities in different regions of Africa as well as between cities in Africa and Asia, Africa and Latin America, and Africa and Europe/North America.
  • Capitalize on potential partnerships within SEI and externally. Successful development of the programme will depend on strengthening existing links and fostering new ones with those centres which have expertise in sustainable urbanization.

The programme will also serve as a platform for strengthening existing partnerships and forging new ones with local and international partners and experts involved in urban sustainability challenges in sub-Saharan Africa.

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