More than two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in cities by 2050, compared with just over half today. Almost 90% of this growth will take place in Asia and Africa. Africa, currently the least urbanised continent, is experiencing unprecedented rapid urban growth, which – together with a high projected population growth and high levels of informality – poses challenges to creating safe, inclusive and sustainable cities.
Given the increasingly urban nature of the world, cities will become the predominant context in which many of the SDGs will need to be achieved. Addressing these challenges and opportunities needs an interdisciplinary approach and a deep understanding of both local and global contexts.
Over the past decade, UCT’s African Centre for Cities (ACC), an interdisciplinary research hub, has become an authority on African urbanism, with a strong focus on sustainable urban transitions on the continent. Working at the intersection of research, policy advocacy and public discourse, themes such as urban food systems, resilience, infrastructure, health and informality provide lenses to investigate the conditions necessary for sustainable urban development in Africa and the Global South.
While the SDGs are a global agenda and national imperative, they require implementation and action at the city level. Harnessing co-production, embedded research and comparative research, several ACC programmes, including Mistra Urban Futures, Coalition for Urban Transitions, Co-producing urban knowledge in Angola and Mozambique through community-led data collection: towards meeting SDG 11 and PEAK Urban, have explored questions of localising the SDGs at the urban scale.
The UCT Climate System Analysis Group (CSAG), in partnership with ACC among others, led ‘Future resilience for African cities and lands’ (FRACTAL): an international consortium for a ground-breaking five-year climate change study across eight African cities to enhance their resilience and adaptation responses.
The Marine and Antarctic Research Centre for Innovation and Sustainability (MARIS) is a partner of the Ocean Cities Programme – an international network with the goal of turning coastal cities into communities permeable to the marine environment, which will also contribute significantly to SDG 14.