Cities in Africa face escalating water-related challenges, compounded by worsening climate change and rising urbanization. Water insecurity threatens economies, livelihoods and the health and wellbeing of billions. The answer: smart, systematic investments in urban water resilience that ensure communities have safe, reliable and affordable water; and that water resources are protected through disaster preparedness and water-sensitive infrastructure. Water Resilience in a Changing Urban Context: Africa's Challenge and Pathways for Action, demonstrates that African cities can address these challenges with a fresh approach centered on water resilience. This publication frames core challenges and major barriers that prevent water resilience in African countries. The authors, experts in water resilience, highlight the potential power of city-regions in Africa to drive transformation. It offers four priority pathways for action as a starting point for cities to build urban water resilience: 1) plan for water, 2) prioritize the most vulnerable, 3) create change at scale and 4) get finance right. Water resilience is essential to many development goals, from the Sustainable Development Goals and UN Habitat’s New Urban Agenda, to the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the Paris Agreement.
Most urban areas in Africa are confronting escalating water-related challenges compounded by climate change and projected growth. Current urbanization patterns, existing water supply systems, and governance and financial models will be unable to meet the unprecedented rise in demand and increasing water-related risks.
There are approaches that can help connect local realities to basin-level issues and link action to crosscutting urban issues, such as service provision and land use. Efforts to build urban water resilience have immense potential to inform practice and move urban regions towards more resilient, equitable systems.
This report frames the challenge, the rising role for cities, and four priority pathways for urban and water-related stakeholders. It is based on an extensive literature review, key informant interviews and the authors’ collective experience working on these issues.
Four priority pathways are highlighted for action:
Plan for water: mainstream risk-informed land management and water-sensitive urban development
Prioritize the most vulnerable: increase equitable access to safe water and sanitation
Create change at scale: develop innovative institutions and pursue partnerships for water resilience
Get finance right: increase and align water-resilient investments across sectors
Ultimately, transitioning to a water-resilient city will require collaborative action and alignment across hydrologically linked regions as well as public sectors at various levels of government.