Green cities in Africa

Green Cities In Africa: Top 6 Cities Leading The Way on The Continent

  •  What are Green Cities?
  • What makes cities green and sustainable?

The 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals were adopted in 2015 with the target period of 15 years. Governments and other organisations around the world are working around the clock to achieve the goals by 2030. Goal 11 in particular states that: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. This requires cities to provide better living conditions to its citizens and travellers alike.

Africa with a population of about 1 billion people is the second most populous continent after Asia. African cities have the fastest growing urban population. Projections by the Organisation For Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) 2019, show that African cities are expected to be home to an extra 950 million people by the year 2050.

The rising population presents both opportunities for development such as urban tourism development as well as challenges that restrain human lives. For instance, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) identifies that African cities face a number of challenges such as environmental degradation, traffic congestion, inadequate urban infrastructure and basic services such as water supply, sanitation and waste management.

Urban Tourism Development in Africa.


In the midst of the challenges mentioned, African cities continue to be potential destinations for urban tourism. Urban tourism is defined by United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) as a type of tourism activity which takes place in urban spaces with its inherent attributes characterized by non-agricultural based economy such as administration, manufacturing, trade and services and by being nodal points of transportation.

Travelers visiting Africa for wildlife safari such as gorilla tours start or end their journeys in cities with city tours. City tours in Africa offer a range of activities such as city walks, cultural tours and nightlife experience; modern and old architectural landscape photography. Some African cities like Kigali city Rwanda, Cape Town South Africa and Kampala, Uganda have become destinations for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions/ Events (MICE) which attracts leisure and business travel markets.

To pave way for sustainability and green future, Africa cities are striving to lessen their environmental impacts by reducing waste, expanding recycling, lowering greenhouse gas emission, increasing housing density while expanding open space, encouraging the development of sustainable local business. This is what makes up for a city to be categorized as a “green city” according to United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

Top 6 African cities leading the way for a green future.

There are 6 African cities that have been ranked by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in 2020 to meet the green city criteria. These include Cape Town – South African, Kampala city – Uganda, Cocody – Ivory Coast,

Let’s find out what these African cities are doing to be role models for sustainability.

Kampala City – Uganda

Kampala is the capital city of Uganda located 34 km from Entebbe airport. The city in 2014 had a population of about 1.5 million people which has rapidly increased to about 3.2 million in 2020 according to Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA). The city originally planned to manage less than a million people now experiences heavy traffic and congestion which further cause environmental degradation problems like floods, air and waste pollution in all the five divisions of Kampala spanning an area of about 196 km. These include Rubaga division, Central division, Kwempe division, Nakawa and Makyinde.

In order to tackle poor planning and congestion, Kampala city developed its first energy and Climate Change Action Plan in 2016. This is incorporated into the Uganda National Development Plan (NDP) and Vision 2040 that aims to transform into a middle income state.

The Kampala action plan aims to revamp proper planning, implement efficient transport, and deployment of renewable energy sources and plant more trees to restore its degraded landscape.

Uganda relies on hydropower with a total of 1237.49 generated from Bujjagali station on river Nile and other hydropower stations. The country aims to diversify its energy mix with transport using almost 45% of it according to Uganda Electricity Generating Company (UEGC) and REN21 a global renewable energy community.

For instance in order to reduce overdependence on charcoal which causes deforestation, KCCA is implementing efficient energy such s use of briquettes and energy efficient cooking stoves. Uganda has also embarked on production of Electric Vehicles (EV’s) through a government owned Kiira Motors Cooperation. Every year, Kiira aims to produce about 5000 Electric buses and small electric vehicles which is a great strategy to mitigate emissions from motorcycles and taxis which are a source of noise, air pollution and traffic congestion.

The city plans to phase out motorcycles from the business center, implement air quality monitors; plant more trees and gardens which has made Kampala one of the top of African green cities.

Cape Town – South Africa.

South Africa’s oldest and second largest city is also identified as one of the green cities in Africa. This is because, Cape Town has an energy and climate change unit that is responsible to develop clean energy. 83% of the city’s power is generated from burning fossil fuels such as coal.

Cape Town is also exploring the use of biofuels in transport and production of electric vehicles. The city is also implementing use of renewable energy such as solar in manufacturing.

Cocody City – Ivory Coast

Cocody is one of the 10 suburbs within Abidjan the business port of Ivory Coast, West Africa. Cocody town covering an area of 135 k m2 is known for its wealthy mansions with a population of about 800,000 out of 4.3 million people that live in Abidjan. Cocody green city plan adapted in 2016 which targets to reduce carbon emissions by 70% by 2030.

According to Renewables (REN21), Cocody’s green city plan undertook measures to use solar energy to power large mansion buildings, restore ecosystems and protect water sources, develop green spaces and reform transport system through phasing out old cars on the streets. Through these projects, the Cocody green city plan has employed 100,000 and 400,000 people directly and indirectly respectively. For instance, women were supplied with 200000 solar power kits to households and empowered to make energy efficient cooking stoves from sugar cane manufacturers. The city has also installed over 500o solar lamps and removed 1000 old vehicles from the streets which eliminates 50 tons of carbon emissions paving way for sustainability.

 Dakar – City

Dakar, the capital city of Senegal also made to the list of top 6 green cities in Africa. Dakar developed its climate change action plan in 2013 and ever since it has reduced its reliance on diesel energy by 5% through use of renewable energy sources according to Renewables Now (REN21).

Tsévié Town – Togo

Tsévié town is an important commercial center located 35 km north of Lome the capital city of Togo. The town has one of the fastest growing urban population. There were about 10300 people in 2017 who have increased to 540000 in 2020 according to Renewables Now (REN21). The town has low levels of industrialization and inadequate hydropower thus people depend on use wood and lack lighting at night.

The European Commission (EC) funded Tsévié under the Covenant of Mayors for Sub-Saharan Africa initiative (CoM SSA), a network of urban cities driving the action for climate change around the world. Since its establishment in 2015, the initiative has greatly empowered the people of Tsevie. Today, more people produce energy efficient cooking stoves which has reduced environmental degradation. The city also produced buses that link to Lome further enhancing transport mobility. More schools were also built and soloar powered light put on the streets across the town which reduces crimes making Tsevie safe for locals and tourists alike.

Therefore, Tsévié was identified by Word Economic Forum as a city with potential to lead the way for a green and sustainable future.

Yaounde IV

Yaoundé IV is one of the seven communes of Yaoundé the capital city of Cameroon. The western African country largely depends on oil and gas. However, based on its national emergency plan 2035, Cameroon wants to increase the usage capacity of renewable energy especially hydro-power and solar and reduce its green gas emissions by 35% by 2035.

Yaoundé IV is a residential covering an area about 59 km with a population of about 793000 people. As a residential area, it consumes about 507 KW per year used for water heating and cooking services; which is above the national average usage capacity of 280 KW.  

In order to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, the city adapted its climate change action plan in 2020 which aims to increase renewable energy through use of solar power to power households and street lighting. For instance, 9 biogas plants were installed to power the households energy used for cooking.

As a signatory of the Covenant of Mayors for Sub-Saharan Africa Initiative (CoM SSA) which has helped the city to adapt its climate change action plan, Yaounde IV plans to install 3000 solar street lights, 3600 solar kits to households and production of electric motorcycles to 5% by 2030. These plans along with other measures has made Yaoundé IV one of the African green cities in 2020.

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