Small cities and towns in Africa: insights into adaptation challenges and potentials

Ben Wisner, Mark Pelling, Adolfo Mascarenhas, Ailsa Holloway, Babaka Ndong, Papa Faye, Jesse Ribot, David Simon

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter is a counterpoint to those in the rest of this volume that treat Africa’s large cities. As Simon (Int Dev Plann Rev 36(2):v–xi, 2014) has observed, most study of African urban climate change adaptation has focused on the challenges to large cities. So, by way of heuristic exercise, we attempt to approach a set of questions about small African cities and towns facing climate change. What climate-related hazards are faced by small cities in Africa today and will be confronted in the future? What kind of enabling capacities should be strengthened so that staff in small cities can take the initiative to adapt to climate change? What obstacles do the governments and residents of small cities face in adapting to climate change? What potential is there for risk reduction and improved livelihood security even in the face of climate change? Reviewing literature and using case studies from Eastern, Southern and Western Africa, we find that small cities have potential not only to protect their infrastructure and residents from climate related hazards, but also to serve as catalysts of climate-smart development in their hinterlands. However, governance problems and a lack of finance severely limit the ability of small African cities to realise this potential. More research is urgently needed to inform feasible solutions to bridge these governance and funding gaps.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUrban Vulnerability and Climate Change in Africa
Subtitle of host publicationa multidisciplinary approach
EditorsS Pauleit, A Coly, S Fohlmeister, P Gasparini, G Jorgensen, S Kabisch, WJ Kombe, S Lindley, I Simonis, K Yeshitela
Place of PublicationSwitzerland
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-03982-4
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-03981-7
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015

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