Helping African cities unlock future energy


Cities currently consume up to 80 per cent of total energy production and release 75 per cent of global CO2 emissions. Africa’s urban population is projected to rise from 400 million to 1.34 billion between 2010 and 2050, which represents nearly half of the projected rise in numbers of urban dwellers globally.

Urbanisation in sub-Saharan Africa has not, for the most part, been matched with improvement in service delivery and economic growth, which hampers development opportunities. In a time when sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing the most severe impacts of climate change, local governments in Africa have great interest and incentives to act on energy and climate issues.

There is an opportunity in many African cities, as they urbanise over the next three decades, to meet existing and future needs of its economy and citizens while avoiding being locked-in to unsustainable patterns of growth.

Traditionally, questions raised about energy from national and local entities are explored in isolation from other factors. However, for the first time, Atkins Acuity has brought together thinking of wider urban systems to explore how the energy challenges of African cities can be unlocked.


Working for EU Energy Initiative Partnership Dialogue Facility (EUEI-PDF), which promotes sustainable energy for equitable development in Africa, Latin America and Asia, Atkins Acuity has developed four scenarios illustrating actions and solutions. External experts and practitioners who took part in the initiative included: the UK’s Department for International Development, German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), Cities Alliance, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, United Cities and Local Government (UCLG) and Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI).

Considering the period to 2050, the scenarios explored the implications of four alternative futures:

  • Reliance on a centralised energy models and weak implementation capacity;
  • Weak enforcement of climate commitments and persistence of informality;
  • Growth driven climate action to support integrated development; and
  • Technology enabled growth and decentralised energy supply.

A partnership approach and stakeholder dialogue was essential in shaping the scenarios and indeed plays a key role in solving energy issues. It is through collaboration and partnerships that energy issues in Africa can be addressed, between national governments and organisations, and cities and other city level actors


The report, Future Energy Scenarios for African cities: Unlocking Potential for Climate Responsive Development will help national governments and cities meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as well as work out how best to identify and tackle their own priorities. It aims to provide an input to shape the policy dialogue around the role that African cities can and should play in the implementation of their countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) towards meeting their international climate commitments.

It aims to:

  • break down the complexity of urban infrastructure planning by presenting four scenarios and strategic policy choices, which are integrated across sectors;
  • identify the megatrends that will shape the future of African cities;
  • focus on the key uncertainties to shape solutions relevant to African cities;
  • consider wild cards and future shocks to improve risk management in strategic policy-making; and
  • identify short, medium and long-term opportunities for addressing urban energy issues involving the public and private sector as well as community based action.

A scenario-based strategic foresight methodology was used to support medium to long-term strategic visioning and planning. Such a method can be applied to enhance the effectiveness and design of plans, programmes and projects at a city level by complementing and informing city-level energy scenario.

We have suggested how cities and stakeholders can apply the findings of the report and how solutions need to be shaped and applied differently to the traditional approach.

This foresight report sits alongside our energy programme delivery work in Kenya on 44 Counties  and SE4All and extends our experience in shaping solutions to address the energy needs of African cities.

The report was launched at the UNIDO Vienna Energy Forum in May 2017.
To read the full report, please click here.
Image source: EUEI-PDF


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