Green cities, a new model for a sustainable, resilient, inclusive and prosperous city

Urban planner

Global  Green Growth Institute

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AFRIK 21 today publishes its first expert contribution. Alé Badara SY, a Senegalese urban planner, has kindly invited us to inaugurate this format, defending the emergence of green cities, a kind of sustainable city, combining environmental constraints and economic opportunities, through an approach based on dialogue and consultation.

Urbanization, particularly in developing countries, is one of the most important global challenges that will shape the future. The world’s urban population is expected to double over the period 2000-2030 and to increase by 2 billion people (World Bank). By 2050, more than two thirds of the world’s population is expected to live in cities and 90% of the growth is expected to take place in developing countries.

The trend is clearly present in Senegal, where the proportion of urban dwellers has almost doubled in recent decades (from 23% in the 1960s to 43% in 2013) and is expected to reach 60% by 2030, according to Salim Rouhana and Dina Nirina Ranarifidy (two urban development specialists at the World Bank), while the sub-Saharan average is estimated at around 40%. In this context of rapid urbanization, Senegalese cities play a key role in national economic growth, wealth and job creation. Such a pattern is expected to be maintained, as the potential for urbanization is still enormous.

The vulnerability of Senegalese cities

With well-planned urban development, Senegalese cities could be more powerful engines of the national economy. However, like African cities, they face manifold challenges in terms of infrastructure, water supply, waste management, urban mobility, access to energy, sanitation, decent and affordable housing. In addition, there is also insecurity, poverty, underemployment, pollution and exposure to natural disasters. The recurrence and complexity of all these problems can be explained by the lack of strategies for urban development in a climate change context.

This growing urbanization has considerably increased the vulnerability of cities that are often not prepared to cope with climate shocks, to manage urban growth and to effectively seize all the opportunities it offers in terms of social, technological and environmental innovations. This situation is even more acute in secondary cities.

The green city as a model for a sustainable city

At this stage, it will be difficult to address the challenges of growth and poverty in African cities in general and Senegal in particular, without sustainable urbanization management. Current urbanization models are no longer viable. They increase the costs of upgrading cities and do not allow us to take better advantage of the economic and social dividends of our cities. The sustainable city is an essential objective. It emphasizes the need to change paradigm and opt for another model of urban development that is inclusive, soberer, sparing in land resources and giving more space to renewable energies and energy efficiency.

In this light, the “green cities” model is particularly relevant in Senegal’s context, as it offers the best options for addressing climate change through sustainable mitigation and adaptation measures through job creation, poverty alleviation and the improvement of living conditions for the well-being of populations.

The development of green cities goes beyond traditional environmental policy, in that it uses sustainable urban planning tools and practical experiences. Green cities thus aim to accelerate the transition to low-carbon urban development in order to transform environmental and energy constraints into economic opportunities. It is an ecosystemic and integrated approach based on dialogue and consultation in order to develop compact, resilient and low-carbon cities that consume less space, less energy, less water, less natural resources and produce less waste.

The green city development process thus aims to shift to a new model of sustainable, resilient, inclusive and prosperous cities. It provides solutions to the challenges of urbanization through the promotion of a sustainable urban model that meets climate challenges, combining quality of life, energy, environmental and economic performance.

Green cities aim at functional mix, the promotion of energy efficiency and the use of renewable energies, sustainable land management, environmentally friendly transport, waste recovery… supported by green and inclusive governance.

The objective is to create a better living environment, control urban sprawl on agricultural land, access to various energy sources and basic urban services related to water, sanitation, housing, health, improving the quality of services provided to citizens and finally creating conditions for balanced economic growth.

Focus on secondary cities

In Senegal, the Green Secondary Cities Development Program involves twenty-five municipalities with the support of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) as the –five-year Cooperation Framework established with the Government. The cities eligible for this Program are essentially secondary cities suffering from a serious lack of equipment, infrastructure and jobs.

Indeed, the secondary cities development has not led to a sustained economic growth, with environmental challenges that exacerbate social inequalities and urban poverty. These secondary cities continue to grow, without the capacity to plan and manage their urban development, promote employment and economic growth. All of this justifies the Government’s option to retain secondary cities as a model for green cities.

To achieve this, the approach is based on five “pillars” that form the basis of the Green Secondary Cities Development Framework Guidelines, on which the most important progress can be made. These pillars are: 1) Energy and energy efficiency, 2) Urban mobility, 3) Land use, 4) Water and sanitation, 5) Solid waste. The implementation strategy is based on two approaches: the “site” approach and the “pillar” approach. The “site” approach involves the implementation of all five pillars as part of a new development (urban centres, concerted development zones, special economic zones, etc.). While the “pillar” approach applies to an existing structure. Depending on the context and priorities, one or more pillars can be developed.

Kolda, Tivaouane and Diamniadio, pioneers of the green city

The “green cities” model as advocated by GGGI is the one that ensures not only environmental sustainability, but also economic growth and inclusive social development, which contributes to the economy of an entire region and country.

The Green Secondary Cities Development Programme aims to provide these localities with strategic planning tools focused on green growth in order to strengthen territorial resilience, develop climate governance capacities and mobilise resources for financing bankable projects. For the first phase of the programme’s implementation, the cities of Kolda, Tivaouane and the new city Diamniadio were the pilot cities.

In Kolda, the Green City Development Strategy is part of an overall perspective that takes into account the need to develop an intermunicipal system in order to meet the city’s spatial development constraints. The roadmap focuses on Kolda’s strategic priorities in terms of housing, transport, sanitation, and indicates the need for structural urban policies to give the city a new life and boost its economy.

In Tivaouane, the Development Strategy is based on the principles of sustainable development for the city’s influence beyond the country’s borders, while consolidating its religious functions. The roadmap focuses on the establishment of an integrated liquid and solid sanitation management system.

At the Diamniadio level, the strategy will be intended to place the development of the Urban Pole within a green trajectory. It will be a powerful territorial marketing tool, which can contribute to the cluster’s attractiveness and attract more international investors.

As Kolda, Tivaouane and the Diamniadio Urban Pole, the other Programme cities will receive technical support from GGGI Senegal to develop and implement a Green City Development Strategy and a corresponding Roadmap.

Build real decentralised territorial projects

The lessons learned from the pilot phase led to the extension of the Programme to ten new cities. The implementation approach of this phase aims to strengthen citizen participation, ownership of actors and stimulate a dynamic of behavior change. To support this process, it is planned to set up a ” Green City Young Volunteers Network ” in each city, building on the existing network of associations, in order to raise awareness of the need to change behavior.

In the context of Phase 2 of Act 3 of Decentralization, it is necessary to capitalize this approach and tools developed under the Programme to make them relevant “Territorial Projects”, aimed to strengthen green and inclusive economic growth in secondary cities.

Finally, green cities are accompanied by a set of services, economic opportunities and green jobs that contribute significantly to the Country’s green growth.


By Alé Badara SY
Urban planner, Senior Green City development Specialist
Global  Green Growth Institute (GGGI)
Dakar, Senegal
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