Growing up in a low-income community in Lagos Nigeria, I lived with flooding from tidal inundations and its accompanying public health issues. It all seems normal, until I understood that these were climate-induced events impacting on the quality of life of my home community. This realization and being a witness to unintended consequences of urban development policies led to a career in policy research for urban development. Indeed, i want to spend my career supporting governments in growing cities particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa to undertake better climate-sensitive development planning that benefits its most vulnerable populations. This is the impetus behind Enyenaweh -the research and innovation group I founded 18 months ago.. I am particularly interested in how institutions coordinate across levels of governments and service delivery agencies for urban resilience. I explain urban resilience as the capacity of a city-system to plan, prepare, respond, withstand and bounce back from shocks and stresses induced or accentuated by climate change.
There are several stressors confronting growing cities in Sub-Saharan Africa including rapid urbanization, increased population density and poor basic service delivery systems. These stressors when combined with climate change impacts such as flood events or other natural disasters could lead to a shock that would destroy service delivery systems and occasion massive loss of lives and property. An example was the July 2011 rainstorm in Lagos Nigeria which led to considerable loss of property and lives. Indeed the IPPC Report 2014 asserts that cities are, and will continue to be disproportionately affected by climate impacts. Given these stressors and potential for shocks, it is important that African cities devise effective strategies for resiliency. This capability depends—among other factors—on the fiscal and institutional capacity of these cities for climate adaption. Unfortunately, African cities such as Lagos Nigeria often have tenuous governance systems and are among the most climate at-risk locales globally.
Poor sanitation, rapid population growth, increasing waste streams, poor habitation and congestion, poor transportation, non-existent emergency response mechanisms, absence of local capacity, poor public health systems, very high youth unemployment and civil unrest all converge to create a very low resiliency society, at least in Lagos. And these have bearings on climate preparedness and adaptation. Imagine a climate future for a 40 million people Lagos in 2050 beset by these service delivery challenges? The future prosperity of African cities depends on how the current population and urbanization burst is managed amidst increasing climate concerns and its consequences for low income communities.