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International collaboration to understand African urban climate change

Posted on 22/04/2013

African urban climate change workshop participants outside the Geography Department. Source: David Simon

35 specialists in African urban climate change from across the African continent and beyond came together in the Geography Department at Royal Holloway on 16th and 17th April for a landmark workshop entitled Bearing the brunt of environmental change: understanding climate adaptation and transformation challenges in African cities. Organised by David Simon assisted by Hayley Leck, the workshop was funded by the Urban Studies journal as the winning bid in its international seminar series competition for 2012. Co-funding from UN-HABITAT, the Urban Climate Change Research Network, the Urbanization and Global Environmental Change project of IHDP, the ACC DAR project based at La Sapienza University of Rome, and the African Studies Association of the UK broadened the base and increased the scale of participation.

While rapid advances are now being made in understanding the current and likely future dynamics of urban environmental/climate change under different scenarios, the evidence base and policy responses through mitigation, adaptation and transformation remain highly uneven. Our knowledge and understanding of the processes of change as they are already affecting many African urban areas, and will do so increasingly through this century, remain seriously inadequate and patchy, being focused on a few large coastal cities. The workshop was designed to bring together, for the first time, researchers and practitioners from across Africa who are often isolated in particular cities, countries and linguistic communities. They shared experiences and identified similarities, differences and began to identify the extent to which generalisations across national and regional boundaries are appropriate. These perspectives will enrich our understanding and open new horizons for urban change theory (from which other parts of the world will have much to learn) and relevant applied communities of practice.

Sessions were congenial and a real sense of common purpose existed throughout. Planned outputs include a policy brief to be translated into French, Portuguese and Arabic; an overview article to be submitted to a journal covering academic and practitioner communities; and a proposal for a special issue of Urban Studies. New contacts and shared interests are also likely to lead to new joint research grant applications.


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