Sustainable Cities in the Global South: Lessons from the African Continent

  • Christopher CusackEmail author
  • Julie Elwell


A watershed moment occurred in 2008 when, for the first time in human history, most of the global population could be categorized as residing in urban areas. Contributing to this remarkable transition has been the rapid population growth in cities of Africa. Natural increase and rural to urban migration patterns throughout Africa have resulted in striking rates of urbanization across the continent. Such rapid growth in urban population has fostered awareness for the need to address such development in a sustainable fashion. A regional approach to understanding the needs and addressing the issues of sustainable urban development provides opportunity to examine best practices of generating sustainability through twenty-first century efforts of planning and governance. Examination of cities as case studies affords meaningful cross-cultural context and better opportunity to identify transformational practices in policy and planning. Cities selected for examination in this research are noted for their pioneering and dynamic approaches to planning. Linking economic expansion with social equity and environmental protection, such cities may well serve as global vanguards in a new urban era.


Africa Global south Sustainable cities Sustainable urban development 


  1. Acey CS, Culhane TH (2013) Green jobs, livelihoods and the post-carbon economy in African cities. Local Environ 18(9):1046–1065CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. African Population and Health Research Center (2012) Urban health in Kenya key findings: the 2000 Nairobi cross-sectional slum survey, African Population and Health Research Center, Nairobi, KenyaGoogle Scholar
  3. Angel S, Parent J, Civco DL, Blei A, Potere D (2011) The dimensions of global urban expansion: estimates and projections for all countries, 2000–2050. Prog Plann 75:53–107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Asprone D, Manfredi G (2014) Linking disaster resilience and urban sustainability: a glocal approach for future cities. Disasters 39(S1):S96–S111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baumert KA, Herzog T, Pershing J (2005) Navigating the numbers: greenhouse gas data and international climate policy. World Resources Institute, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  6. Biao I, Esaete J, Oonyu J (2013) The role of learning cities in the rejuvenation of Africa. Int Rev Educ 59(4):469–488CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bradlow B (2012) Inclusion: a sustainability agenda for African city growth. Perspectives 3(12):6–10Google Scholar
  8. Bulkeley H, Tuts R (2013) Understanding urban vulnerability, adaptation and resilience in the context of climate change. Local Environ 18(6):646–662CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chingombe W, Pedzisai E, Manatsa D, Mukwada G, Taru P (2015) A participatory approach in GIS data collection for flood risk management, Muzarabani District Zimbabwe. Arab J Geosci 8(2):1029–1040CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cobbinah PB, Darkwah RM (2016) African urbanism: the geography of urban greenery. Urban Forum 27:149–165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cusack C, Bills KJ (2016) Glocalizing’ urban sustainability: the case of Nairobi. In: Dutt AK, Noble AG, Costa FJ, Thakur SK, Thakur RR, Sharma HS (eds) Spatial diversity and dynamics in resources and urban development. Springer, Netherlands, pp 99–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Frigerio A (2016) Facing rapid urbanization: a century of East African urbanism. In: Hein C (ed) International planning history society. Proceedings 17th IPHS Conference, History-Urbanism-Resilience, TU DelftGoogle Scholar
  13. Goodfellow T (2013) Planning and development regulation amid rapid urban growth: explaining divergent trajectories in Africa. Geoforum 48:83–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gore CD, Muwanga NK (2014) Decentralization is dead, long live decentralization! Capital city reform and political rights in Kampala, Uganda. Int J Urban Reg Res 38(6):2201–2216CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Grant R (2015) Sustainable African urban futures: stocktaking and critical reflection on proposed urban projects. Am Behav Sci 59(3):294–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Heathcott J (2013) Heritage in the dynamic city: the politics and practice of urban conservation on the swahili coast. Int J Urban Reg Res 37(1):215–237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kihato M, Karuri-Sebina G (2012) Urban socio-spatial change and sustainable development: the neo-city phenomenon. Perspectives 3(12):34–40Google Scholar
  18. McHale MR, Bunn DN, Pickett STA, Twine W (2013) Urban ecology in a developing world: why advanced sociological theory needs Africa. Front Ecol Environ 11(10):556–564CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Murray MJ (2017) Frictionless utopias for the contemporary urban age: large-scale, master-planned redevelopment projects in urbanizing Africa. In: Datta A, Shaban A (eds) Mega-Urbanization in the Global South: fast cities and new urban utopias of the postcolonial state. Routledge, London, pp 31–53Google Scholar
  20. Mutahaba G, Pastory P (2015) Local government capacities in East Africa. Public Policy Admin 14(3):268–280Google Scholar
  21. Myers G (2013) From expected to unexpected comparisons: changing the flows of ideas about cities in a postcolonial urban world. Singap J Trop Geogr 35:104–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Myers G, Owusu F, Subulwa AG (2016) Cities of sub-saharan Africa. In: Brunn SD, Hays-Mitchell M, Zeigler DJ, Graybill JK (eds) Cities of the world: REGIONAL patterns and urban environments. Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, pp 323–366Google Scholar
  23. Myers G (2015) A world-class city-region? Envisioning the Nairobi of 2030. Am Behav Sci 59(3):328–346CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Rigon A (2014) Building local governance: participation and elite capture in slum-upgrading in Kenya. Dev Change 45(2):257–283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Rosner H (2011) Biogas—the low hanging fruit. Popular Sci 279(1):66–76Google Scholar
  26. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (2013) An integrated strategy for sustainable cities (policy brief no. 40). Accessed 29 June 2017
  27. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (2014) World urbanization prospects, 2014 Revision. United Nations, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  28. United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) (2014) The state of African cities: re-imagining sustainable urban transitions. Accessed 29 June 2017
  29. United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) (2015a) Towards an Africa Urban Agenda. Accessed 29 June 2017
  30. United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) (2015b) Sustainable Urban Development in Africa. Accessed 29 June 2017
  31. Watson V (2013) African urban fantasies: dreams or nightmares? Environ Urbanization 26(1):215–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Watson V (2014) Will the profession speak out? Winners and losers in the future African city. Plann Theory Pract 15(1):115–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Williams K (2010) Sustainable cities: research and practice challenges. Int J Urban Sustain Dev 1(1):128–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Williams S, Marcello E, Klopp JM (2014) Toward open source Kenya: creating and sharing a GIS database of Nairobi. Ann Assoc Am Geogr 104(1):114–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. World Health Organization (2016) Global Report on urban health: equitable, healthier cities for sustainable development. Accessed 29 June 2017

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Keene State CollegeKeeneUSA

Personalised recommendations