African cities are growing rapidly, but urban infrastructure services are not keeping pace with demand. Most of this growth will be added to informal settlements, where people do not have reliable, safe or affordable access to basic everyday services. Such settlements already make up over 50% of cities.

With many cities in Africa already struggling to meet people's basic needs, development and climate challenges are increasingly becoming urban challenges. Building sustainable cities depends on whether we can shift from the business-as-usual to a more transformative approach.

WRI works to ensure the future of African cities by helping city administration, private and public investors, and donors, make informed decisions on city planning and policy.



Trees and forests are essential to cities and their residents, providing many benefits for climate, water, biodiversity, resident health and well-being. However, forests near and far from cities continue to face deforestation, threatening watersheds, air quality, the climate and more. At the same time, city leaders struggle to address converging challenges like climate change, water scarcity, pollution and economic downturns. These are not separate challenges: cities can step up for forests, and forests can provide essential benefits in return.

Cities4Forests is a coalition of more than 60 city agencies and municipalities, including partners from eight African cities. The coalition encourages peer-to-peer learning and connects cities with technical support to help them recognize their interdependence with the world’s forests and use their political, economic and cultural power to protect and manage forests for human well-being.

Learn more about Cities4Forests

Clean Air Catalyst

Rapidly urbanizing regions in low- and middle-income countries are at the frontlines of a growing air pollution and climate crisis. Nine out of ten people breathe unhealthy air, causing more than six million premature deaths every year. Many fossil fuel, combustion, industrial and agricultural emissions that create air pollution are also warming the atmosphere, threatening even more livelihoods globally.

The Clean Air Catalyst is a global consortium of organizations that complements traditional efforts to strengthen air quality management capacity. The project achieves this by tackling two critical bottlenecks that hinder clean air action: the gap between recognizing a problem and awareness of the solution; and the often-high cost of reducing emissions, with is unevenly distributed alongside the benefits of action.

Learn more about the Clean Air Catalyst

Urban Policy Initiative

The Urban Policy Initiative is designed to assess the state of urban development policy in Africa, support cities to revise their urban development policies and assist the implementation of economic initiatives. The project is currently implemented in Ethiopia and South Africa.

Building Resilient Cities in Africa

Africa contributes only 4% of the global carbon emissions, yet two-thirds of the continent’s cities are at extreme risk of climate related shocks. The continent’s vulnerability to the impact of climate change is further aggravated by low level of economic development and adaptive capacity, limited basic infrastructure coverage and services, and weak institutional structures. According to the United Nations, Africa will need $50 billion in adaptation finance by 2050. The consequences will be dire if developed countries fall short of meeting their promised target on adaptation financing for vulnerable countries.

Building Resilient Cities in Africa is a project designed to support the UN-backed Race to Resilience campaign, led by the High-Level Climate Champions. The project will consolidate African priorities to shape the resilience agenda at COP by capitalizing on lessons from WRI programs and global initiatives such as 1000 Cities Adapt Now (1000CAN), a new coalition between WRI, Global Center on Adaptation, Resilient Cities Network, and UN-Habitat created to speed up climate change adaptation in 1000 cities.

Digital Transport for Africa

At least 105 million people living in African cities do not have reliable information on their transit systems, and roughly 70% of transport services have little integration or regulation. This gap in information makes it difficult for people to understand transit systems and for planners to improve them. This poses a massive challenge, as quality and affordable public transport is essential to combat inequality, increase opportunity and access to services, improve public health and reduce carbon emissions.

DigitalTransport4Africa (DT4A) represents a large, diverse network of actors committed to building digital commons and applying the Principles for Digital Development to the goals of sustainable urban mobility and access. DT4A works to achieve this by leveraging standardized data; providing expertise and tools to adapt current transport, land use and data to the African context; gathering evidence in support of data-informed mobility planning and implementation; and cultivating innovation to promote the use of open transit data.

Learn more about DigitalTransport4Africa

Bloomberg Philanthropies for Global Road Safety (BIGRS)

Traffic accidents are the eighth leading cause of death around the world, killing nearly 1.4 million people and injuring 50 million every year. Cities and countries, particularly in low- and middle-income countries where most traffic accidents and deaths occur, often lack the capacity to tackle key road safety threats. To reverse such trends, there is a need to support national and city governments with evidence-based approaches to adopt strong transport legislations, enhance data collection and surveillance, change road user behavior, improve infrastructure and upgrade vehicle safety. WRI does this by supporting cities to adopt speed management legislations, scale up safer road interventions, prepare comprehensive road safety plans, develop design guidelines and road safety strategies and plans, and enhance capacity of local institutions. The project supports four cities in three countries in Africa: Accra and Kumasi, Ghana; Kampala, Uganda; and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Regional Electric Vehicle Value-chain Development

Decarbonization of the transport sector would create a cleaner, healthier and more affordable future for African cities. The sector accounted for two-thirds of global oil consumption in 2015, with road transport alone accounting for half of the consumption. However small the consumption of sub-Saharan Africa is, transitioning to a cleaner transport system is key towards building a livable future.

African countries can leapfrog to electrification of transportation and the use electric vehicles as a catalyst for transformative development. This is a timely opportunity for African leaders to define public policies, technological pathways and business models to safeguard the next generation of sustainable transport systems.

WRI, in partnership with the Shell Foundation and UK Aid, work to examine opportunities for private sector engagement in the electrification of transport in Ethiopia and the impacts and benefits of such change. As part of this project, WRI will explore pathways to electrification of mobility and the role of private sector engagement; analyze the impact and benefits of electrifying private sector mobility in Ethiopia; and recommend sectors, areas, and companies to engage with.

Investing in Walking and Cycling Policies

In many African countries, much of the population walk and cycle as their daily mode of transport, often out of necessity. However, a lack of safe infrastructure and exposure to increasing air pollution puts their lives at risk.

Most countries in Africa lack a systematic approach to prioritizing the needs of pedestrians and cyclists. To meet the needs of people who walk and cycle, it is vital to ensure that road construction both nationally and at city level includes construction of NMT infrastructure.

This project aims to strengthen the capacity of governments to prioritize and allocate resources to NMT infrastructure by introducing relevant policies and enhancing engagement between policymakers and groups representing vulnerable citizens.

Integrated Data Hub

The absence of quality data and analysis is one of the major impediments in promoting NMT, mass transit systems and road safety. Another challenge is lack of coordination among stakeholders which has resulted in wastage of resources, social and economic costs, and adverse effects on the built environment.

The new Data Hub for the city of Addis Ababa, which WRI is currently developing, will address these challenges by providing data and analysis to inform decision making in transport and land use planning. The Data Hub is designed to help the city advance at least two strategic interventions in its Non-motorized Transport Strategy in alignment with the Addis Ababa Master Plan.

Inclusive, Impactful, and Innovative Mobility (3iM)

Although in most African cities governments are responsible for the regulation of public transport, services are largely provided by the informal and, to a small extent, formal private sector. The regulatory environment for the transport sector is often unclear and difficult to navigate, making impact investment difficult.

The 3iM project is implemented by WRI in Kampala, Uganda with the financial support of the Shell Foundation. Informal transport is dominant in Kampala with privately operated minibuses (locally called taxis or matatus) and motorcycle taxis (boda bodas) providing an estimated 70% of all motorized trips in Kampala with minimal government oversight. Through the 3iM project, WRI supports Kampala city in the development of policies and regulations to improve investment in the transport sector, enhance coordination between the private and public support for better provision of transport services, and raise awareness of the enterprises’ market and institutional barriers and net impacts — both positive and negative.