05 Jul 2016

Venue: Palais des Nations | Room XI

Organization: Geneva Environment Network

An event discussing the findings of the 15th edition of the African Economic Outlook (AEO), organized within the framework of the Geneva Environment Network, took place on Tuesday 5 July 2016 at the Palais des Nations.

About this Event

The African Development Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the United Nations Development Programme partner to produce this annual report, with the support of over 100 researchers, economists, statisticians and other experts from Africa and other regions of the world. Launched in May 2016, the report presents the state of a ffairs in Africa and addresses the sustainable cities and structural transformation theme.

Africa is urbanising fast. By the mid-2030s, a majority of Africans will live in urban areas. But productive jobs and quality public services are not keeping up with the fast growth of cities and towns. And yet urbanisation holds a huge potential for accelerating economic, social and environmental development; even rural areas would benefi t from the development of vibrant, sustainable African cities. Harnessing that potential requires new, ambitious national urban strategies. Although priorities will depend on each country’s speci c context, all need to clarify land rights, provide better infrastructure and services, manage the growth of intermediary cities.,and put the sustainable use and management of natural resources center stage in the economic development of cities and urbanization strategy.


Welcome and Opening Remarks
Wondwosen ASNAKE, Programme Management Offi cer, UNEP

Presentation of the report
Arthur MINSAT, Economist, Africa, Europe & Middle-East, OECD Development Centre

Discussing Panel
Kookie HABTEGABER, Global Lead for Green Economy, WWF International
Jan KELLETT, Special Advisor, External Engagement: Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction Team, UNDP
Jean-Yves BARCELO, Head, Geneva Liaison O ce, UN-HABITAT
Niel WALMSLEY, Creditworthiness Network Manager, C40 Cities Finance Facility

Q & A

Closing Remarks (see wrap-up video)


Arthur MINSAT presented the 2016 edition of the African Economic Outlook report, and focused most of his presentation (download here) on the stainable cities related chapters of the report.

  • Africa is urbanizing fast with slow structural transformation.
  • It is a big opportunity and governments must work towards proper development. Africa’s urbanization is a megatrend, growing twice faster that OECD countries.
  • This fast urbanization is not accompanied by industrialisation.
  • The environmental factor is also very important in Africa. The cost of air pollution is 200B/y. It has become the biggest killer in 2015.
  • How can cities foster a transformation?
    • Cities could provide enabling condition to host african productive sectors.
    • Cities could lighten up and power Africa to improve access to grid electricity.
    • Cities must also raise local revenues.
  • What conditions makes cities sustainables and spur structural transformation?
    • three principles; be participatory, multi sectoral, place based approaches to benefit from the synergic process.
    • policy priorities; urban land reform, better infrastructure and privilege the role of intermediary cities.
    • multi level governance; decentralization, capacity building and transparency.

Kookie HABTEGABER started by mentioning that this was the 1st contribution of the WWF to the African Economic Outlook (download her presentation). Among the findings:

  • There is a need for better spatial planning and urban strategy linked with national development planning – cities and towns face environmental risk such as water scarcity if they expand in the wrong places like wetlands and water catchment areas.
  • Urban wood fuel use is causing deforestation and forest degradation around many cities in Africa.
  • Showing hidden value of nature for economic dynamism; need to recognize the regulating roles of ecosystems which are often far away from the urban/city centers
  • Ecosystem services are often essential to provide basic services for informal settlements
  • Africa can develop sustainable cities and lead the world in climate change and adaptation and transition to green economy. There is a huge opportunity for Africa to become a leader in sustainable living because of their current low ecological footprint.
  • Cities can make themselves attractive to investors by creating the enabling environment and policy.

Kookie concluded that:

  • We need to connect the cities in the right way; ensuring infrastructure policy and implementation.
  • Do some work in understanding and valuing our ecosystems to get this integrated better into our landscape.
  • Apply the landscape approach; cities should be considered as part of the landscape and not single entities.

According to Kookie the next steps would be:

  • Integrate env. Indicators as part of the national economic dev plans; get access to accurate data
  • Do a continent wide cost benefit analysis of ecosystem services, build the right knowledge and capacity. A lot of interesting information that needs to be continued and exploited.
  • Be smart and leapfrog; link climate change policies development plans and urbanization strategy (develop in coherence).
  • Renewables and off grid for informal settlements.
  • Redirect fossil fuels subsidies to invest in renewable.
  • Political will and long term thinking is critical to move forward.


  • Challenges ahead: population growth 2.5Bn by 2050. Considerable increase. 1.5 billion in working age. Great challenge but also opportunity and potential
  • Cities are centers of resilience, growth and progress and are thus massively important. Development goals should be considered as a package to work.
  • Important investments needed in urban areas in
  • Despite international aid, the private sector has to have its role is going forward in both rural and urban areas.
  • Work to integrate urban development into country and regional planning. Idea of enabling environment with private sector entities.
  • Cities have driven the Paris Agreement process within their own countries. In the SDGs there are also opportunities for them to take the lead.


  • The urbanization rate that Africa is experiencing is unprecedented, not country or continent  has experienced such growth in the past.
  • Few policies that should be looked at in African countries:
    • Land use of cities is essential to generate resources and capture a share of the land price increase and reallocate these resources to infrastructure developments.
    • African cities are amongst the most populated in the world, mobility and service development is key (urban planning).
    • While being considered as an economic asset, housing is also a key component to development and urbanization.

Neil WALMSEY. (Download his presentation)

  • C40: the world’s leading megacities working together to tackle climate change.
  • 3 main issues when it comes to financing: access to finance, managing funds and long term financial sustainability of projects.
  • Recommendation; greater training capacity development for city administrations to better implement policy, trade and infrastructure.
  • Focusing everything on cities somehow neglects rural areas and this is problematic. Suburban areas must also deliver a proper state of development and fill the energy gap.
  • An enabling environment promoting investment on the continent is an important if not the most important factor of development

Concluding remarks:

(see wrap-up video)

At a glance, the global context, cities account the most for economic development but also pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. We have to have policy choices, better data and better understanding to transform our cities towards a more sustainable future.


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