One of the Cities Alliance's most ambitious programmes to date, Future Cities Africa helps cities anticipate future challenges in terms of climate, environment, and natural resources, and gives them the tools to develop and implement action plans while promoting growth.


[26 June 2017] --One of the Cities Alliance’s most ambitious programmes to date, Future Cities Africa (FCA) represents a milestone for the Cities Alliance.   Within 24 months, the programme was implemented in 21 cities across four African countries – Ghana, Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Uganda.

By using similar methods and sharing implementation progress among the cities, FCA was able to identify approaches to help cities anticipate future challenges in terms of climate, environment, and natural resources. It also gave them the tools to develop and implement action plans to minimise these challenges while promoting growth.

The activities undertaken as part of the FCA programme had a considerable impact on the participating cities and countries. They helped cities look at future development in a new way, and gave them quality evidence and tools to undertake more focused, participatory urban action plans.

For the Cities Alliance, FCA has shown that the partnership is able to deliver an intensive programme within a tight deadline, within budget, and with good results. It has also enabled the Cities Alliance to collect information on, and strengthen its understanding of, the challenges facing African cities across five key areas: governance, citizenship, economy, services, and the environment.

The result is an exciting new development approach that focuses on economic growth and resilience, rigorous analysis, and a growing constituency of African countries engaged in effective, inclusive urban planning.  Undertaken with funding from DfID, FCA formally ended in November 2016 after 24 months.


The Future Cities Africa approach

The FCA programme aimed to make cities work for the poor, with a focus on resilience and economic growth. It supported 21 cities in four countries:

  -  Ethiopia: Regional capitals of Mekelle and Dire Dawa

  -  Ghana: Accra and Tema as parts of the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA)

  -  Mozambique: The economic corridor cities of Nampula, Nacala and Tete

  -  Uganda: Secondary cities of Arua, Entebbe, Fort Portal, Gulu, Hoima, Jinja, Kabale, Lira, Masaka, Mbale, Mbarara, Moroto, Soroti and Tororo.

It consisted of six interconnected activities that were all implemented through a participatory approach to enhance local ownership, engagement and capacity development. Each participating city carried out a Rapid Cities Resilience Assessments (RCRAs) to identify resilience challenges and prioritise areas for action. These RCRAs fed into an overall feasibility study.

The programme also produced demand-driven research reports, innovative research, and toolkits to improve the evidence base for cities. In addition, two innovative digital tools were developed and tested –, an open-source decision-making platform developed by The Ecological Sequestration Trust (TEST); and a knowledge-sharing platform developed by Gaiasoft to share data and results, and sustain peer-to-peer contact between African cities.


Diagnostics conducted through the FCA programme have resulted in some important findings:

A flawed urbanisation process

The diagnostics demonstrated that the process of urbanisation and city growth is fundamentally flawed in each of the four countries assessed, and there is little evidence of transformational change.  The nature of the urbanisation process reflects the political economy of national and city economies, often based on resource extraction with rents captured by powerful interest groups combined with a high share of low productivity – non-tradeable service activities supporting most of the urban population.  

Growth is occurring, but the economy changes in aggregate only; it gets bigger because more resources are extracted and life improves through a trickle-down process. Structural transformation is lacking, movement in the product space is hardly visible, productivity in the urban economy stagnates, and inequalities rise.  The quality of growth is poor and cities are increasingly vulnerable to climate change, environmental and natural resource risks.
Capacity for managing urbanisation is deficient

Diagnostics generated by the programme have clearly demonstrated that the capacity of African governments – national and local – to manage the urbanisation process and foster productive, inclusive and resilience cities is severely deficient.  The immediate causes of this deficiency are dysfunctional governance (distorted incentives), severe administrative and technical capacity constraints, and major infrastructure and service deficits.  Interventions are needed throughout the policy and project cycles, albeit varying in relative emphasis across the four countries.

Gender must be a part of the urban planning process

Adding to the dysfunctionalities, gender is a cross-cutting issue that makes responding to effects of unplanned urbanisation in Africa significantly more complex. To respond to the challenges faced by men and women in urban Africa, gender must be taken into consideration throughout the planning process.

Innovative research, analysis and tools

Future Cities Africa produced valuable analysis, research and tools with the potential to benefit cities throughout Africa.

1) Feasibility Study

A Feasibility Study was produced outlining the four-country, 21-city focus of the programme, detailing institutional and financial arrangements needed and relevant stakeholders to inform a business case for future programming. The study provides as a clear identification and integration of the key issues confronting African cities, enabling a better knowledge base for designing effective programmes.

2) Critical Research

The research focused on improving the evidence base to enable African cities to fulfil their potential as centres of growth and job creation in the face of climate, environment and resource challenges. It has provided key direction on how best to manage city growth and has helped shape the future research agenda for African researchers. A key recommendation is the need to strengthen African research capacities to respond to this emerging agenda.

Four studies were produced:

  -  The Climate Change and Energy Debate in the Context of Ethiopia

  -  Urban Governance and Service Delivery in the Context of Ghana

  -  The Urban Expansion and Compactness Debate in the Context of Mozambique

  -  Informality and Economic Growth in Uganda – The role of the informal economy in city growth in the context of Uganda

3) Digital Tools

Two digital tools pre-selected by DFID were developed ( or tested (Knowledge Platform) during the course of the FCA programme.

  - - an open source, decision-making model prototype. Developed by TEST, the model is designed to enable decision makers and key stakeholders to make better citywide policies, plans, and interventions available and ready for deployment in African cities. It was developed and piloted in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector in GAMA for potential use in future urban programming in Africa.

  -  Knowledge Platform. This was designed to share results, data, and establish peer-to-peer contact between cities. Developed by Gaiasoft, the platform uses off-the-shelf software that can be reconfigured and improved based on specific needs. The platform tested the relevance of and appetite for knowledge management as a part of the process of managing cities.

4) Toolkits and Frameworks

Studies produced through the FCA programme focused on a theme or specific city/country challenge that explored new ideas and innovative thinking to building resilience in African cities.

  -  City Development Strategies (CDS) Toolkit 2.0. The toolkit updates the existing CDS approach to enable city managers to develop more resilient approaches to urban planning in primary and secondary cities.  It aims to improve the usefulness and impact of CDS processes by moving beyond the traditional approaches and incorporating new strategic focal areas of resilience and inclusive economic growth, in addition to other more traditional, cross-cutting issues of governance, participation poverty alleviation and gender.

  -  Innovative Data Toolkit. The toolkit addresses the data challenges faced by city officials, both for day-to-day management and long-term resilience planning. It helps officials understand where critical data gaps are, how to address these gaps, and the benefits of expanding data resources. The toolkit serves as a one-stop-shop manual for city officials on data use for city planning. It focuses on supporting cities to create a process for data management and identifies opportunities to improve data maturity. The toolkit supports a city’s data management lifecycle and be can used iteratively and comparatively to support data needs for day-to-day operations.

  -  Human Resources Capacity Benchmarking: A Preliminary Toolkit for Planning and Management in Africa. This assessment toolkit provides an intervention in understanding urban service delivery gaps. It takes staffing as a key driver and an entry point to achieving desired service level standards and benchmarks. It is a first attempt to develop an analytical device that provides a systematic, rational model so that towns and cities in Africa can conveniently and rapidly assess their existing levels of staffing against a model framework.

  -  The Future Proofing City Studies: Urban Risk /Environment Risk Framework. The framework covers a specific country, its national urbanisation strategy, and its specific planning typology for regional capitals in Ethiopia, metropolitan cities in Ghana, secondary cities in Uganda, and urban growth corridors in Mozambique. The framework helps to analyse each city’s institutional and physical capacity and the environmental risks. It aims to help cities better understand the specific challenges and opportunities they are facing.



One of the findings of FCA is that gender makes responding to urbanisation more complex and must be part of the urban planning process.

The FCA activities helped cities look at future development in a new way, and gave them quality evidence and tools to undertake more focused, participatory urban action plans.


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