Published on Sustainable Cities

How can we use analytical approaches to generate urban climate investments in Africa?

This page in:
As the world rushes to reduce the negative impacts of climate change, ambitious sub-national actors are rising to the fore. The recent One Planet Summit exemplifies this trend. Earlier this month, urban leaders joined CEOs, financial institutions, researchers, Heads of State, and more in the adoption of the Africa Pledge, calling for immediate voluntary actions and a specific commitment to invest in sustainable infrastructure across the continent. After all, the infrastructure investments we make today set the agenda for how cities will grow in the future. 

For example, Sub-Saharan Africa is largely rural, but is also the region with the fastest urbanization rates. Currently, almost 40 percent of the people live in cities in Sub-Saharan Africa, but this is expected to grow to 60 percent or more by 2050. So while urbanization provides economic and social opportunity, it can overburden traditional municipal resource and service delivery approaches.
Figure 1: Urban and Rural Population Growth Rate - excluding high income countries (Source: World Development Indicators)

Fortunately, challenge also brings opportunity. And a recent IFC analysis found that cities in Sub-Saharan Africa have the potential to attract more than $1.5 trillion in climate-related investments by 2030. But the key question remains, how can cities ensure sustainable development while reducing the GHG impacts of their future growth? Or in short, how do cities become climate-smart?

In order to figure out what kind of investments will be the most impactful, IFC assessed community GHG emissions for 14 African cities. Using an early prototype of a city-specific version of IFC’s EDGE tool (based on the World Bank Group’s CURB tool framework), we wanted to highlight the extent of the challenge, determine potential measures, and quantify their benefits in terms of GHG emission reductions at the city level. 
Let’s look specifically at the large port city of Cotonou, Benin. By looking at Cotonou’s GHG inventory, we were able to find out where most of Cotonou’s emissions were coming from (hint: the building and transport sectors), and this helped us recommend the most suitable mitigation measures. 

Figure 2: Community Emissions Profile for Cotonou, Benin (Source: EDGE Cities)
Some recommendations include the promotion of solar rooftops, public transportation, green building standards for new construction, energy performance labels for existing buildings, improved solid waste and waste water treatment, and vehicle electrification. Each action has a corresponding emissions reduction potential and an estimated investment amount (see Table 1). This kind of targeted information can help cities like Cotonou create cost-effective yet impactful development plans, and if implemented, could reduce Cotonou’s emissions by 30% compared to 2040.
Table 1: Action Summary for a Climate-Smart Cotonou (Source: IFC)
Next, we took the same approach for the remaining cities in the study and found that the transport sector had the highest emissions reduction potential globally, as illustrated by the purple wedge in Figure 3.
Figure 3: Potential emissions pathways (Source: EDGE Cities, IFC Climate Business Department. 2019)
We also uncovered some interesting factors that impact how cities score across sectors in comparison to each other (see Figure 5). For example, the potential to reduce emissions in the buildings sector is heavily dependent on the existing electricity fuel mix and demand-side energy efficiency. Cities like Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) showed lower building-related emissions (the orange segment) due to higher integration of hydropower-derived electricity in their energy mix, whereas cities like Nairobi, Kenya have less (see Figure 4).
Urban transport (purple segment), however, accounts for a large portion of emissions across the majority of the 14 cities, and therefore has the greatest scope for emissions reduction in this case. Policies that encourage use of public transportation, vehicle electrification, and improved vehicle fuel efficiency can help drive emissions down. There are also co-benefits: greening urban transport can reduce traffic congestion and improve local air quality, which can make cities more appealing to new residents.

While our analysis shows that emissions from solid waste (green segment) and wastewater (blue segment) represent fewer current emissions, they have high reduction potential and livability co-benefits. For Kinshasa, DRC and Kigali, Rwanda, where waste and wastewater constitute a relatively high share of emissions, solid waste and wastewater management can drastically reduce the GHG footprint. Effective approaches include improving recycling, waste and water management practices and investing in more efficient waste infrastructure.
Figure 4: Community Emission Profile of Selected African Cities (Source: EDGE Cities, IFC Climate Business Department. 2019)
IFC is scaling up this type of analysis to cover more cities and integrate new variables like local particulate matter pollution and congestion. We also want to quantify investment needs for proposed measures and project their long-term economic benefits. Such a diagnostic and planning platform can help cities more effectively plan growth and frame investment decisions that enable them to become greener and more competitive.

With thanks to Jagabanta Ningthoujam and Stefania D Annibali, Energy and Climate Consultants at the Climate Business Department in IFC, for their valuable contributions.

For more information, and to learn more about how we’re implementing this analysis in cities around the world, see:


Prashant Kapoor

Chief Industry Specialist, Green Buildings and Cities, Climate Business Department, IFC

Marc Forni

Lead Disaster Risk Management Specialist

Join the Conversation

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly
Remaining characters: 1000