The human population has more than doubled since 1960 and this growth is increasingly concentrated in urban settlements. Sub-Saharan Africa has one of the highest rates of urban growth in the world. The context of African urbanization is far more challenging than that experienced in the developed north, where urbanisation was coupled with industrialisation. In Africa, given poverty levels and rapid demographic growth, the risk of ‘bad urban development’ – the proliferation of slums, steep inequality – is high. The roles of local governments, local and regional planning units, are fundamental to developing a positive urban future for the continent.

Energy is central to the satisfaction of basic needs and underpins economic activities hence, is indispensable to cities. The fossil fuel energy era has driven the industrial revolution and post industrial economies, but has also seen worsening inequity and the global warming crisis. The sustainable energy proposition is that, not only must these challenges be addressed, but the solution must contribute to, and be consistent with, resolving other major problems such as poverty and environmental degradation. As embodied in the Sustainable Development Goal 7, a sustainable energy transition involves:

  • The shift to sustainable economies via renewable energy, energy efficiency and lower energy intensities;
  • The reorientation of policy from supply to demand-led approaches, from large, centralized systems, to more flexible, distributed energy systems; and
  • The democratization of energy (people have access to a ‘fair share’ and are involved in the decisions relating to energy development).

Cities have been identified as key drivers for sustainable energy implementation in an energy transition. Central to this is a redesign of cities’ approaches to energy and urban structuring in order to ensure future energy security, sustainability and equity. This includes changes in transport and settlement patterns, urban infrastructure and design, and energy supply and demand. Local governments and allied institutions have become important players to effect such a transition, as is being recognised globally.

Against this backdrop, the main aim of the course is to build capacity of local government actors and various stakeholders to champion the implementation of sustainable solutions and responses to climate change in the urban environments of Africa. It builds on similar successful CPD courses that were held in Cape Town, South Africa and Kampala, Uganda in 2015 and 2016 respectively under the SAMSET project.