And the Greenest Cities in Africa are…


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In this post, Rashiq Fataar of Future Cape Town reviews the African Green City Index after its unveiling at a press conference yesterday by Edna Molewa, Minister of Environmental Affais, Siegmar Proebstl, CEO of Siemens Africa, Delia Meth-Cohn, Editorial Director of CEMEA and the Mayor of Durban, James Nxumalo.

The results of the African Green City Index, a research project by the Economist Intelligence Unit, were unveiled yesterday at the Local Government Pavilion of the Climate Change Response Expo in Durban. The African Green City Index is part of a research series which has, to date, evaluated the environmental sustainability of more than 120 cities in Europe, Asia, Latin America, Germany, the US and Canada and now Africa.

The research considers both quantitative and qualitative indicators selected with advice from a panel of experts including the African Development Bank, UN Habitat and the World Bank. 15 major African cities were chosen independently and evaluated in terms of their environmental performance and policies. While environmental performance and associated data is crucial in developing an index of this nature, the quality of current and future environmental policies drawn up by cities was also considered to be vital.

The study looked at different environmental categories, such as energy and CO2, transport, water, waste, land use, and environmental governance. The majority of data was collected from publicly available sources for the years 2009 and 2010, with challenges experienced in sourcing comparable data in certain categories – challenges that, in part, dictated the 15 cities chosen for the study.

Delia Meth-Cohn of the Economist Intelligence Unit believes that the Green City Index should not be considered in isolation and is neither a tool for pointing fingers at cities struggling in some or all of the categories. Instead she considers the index to be a benchmarking tool for cities used to aid understanding by providing insights into the specific challenges. It would also go some way in fostering best practice sharing, by highlighting innovative ideas, strategies and projects that other cities might wish to follow.

Siegmar Proebstl, CEO of Siemens Africa noted the UN’s 2010 State of African Cities which warns that rapid urbanization could be more of a burden than an opportunity, unless immediate and decisive policy action is taken. He further adds that the African Green City Index is also aimed at starting a dialogue about best practices in the area of green policies and infrastructure, which would help cities learn from one another.


It was noted that South African cities and Accra benefited from good governance and sound policies while North African cities were better at providing access to services. Several other results and conclusions are worth mentioning:

  • Density: Cape Town and Pretoria have the lowest population density of the 15 African Cities, an issue which will need to urgently addressed, if Cape Town aims to enhance its environmental performance
  • Waste: Pretoria generates, by far, the highest amount of waste at 1070 kg per person per year.
  • CO2: South African cities produce CO2 emissions from electricity consumption that is more than 5 times the figure of North African cities.
  • Green spaces: Cape Town was ranked top in this category largely due to its topography and introduction of new green spaces
  • Public Transport: Cairo is ranked top in this category due to a collection of current and future investments in public transport.

Unlike previous Economist lists, no single leading city was identified but the relative strengths and weaknesses of each city were highlighted in each category. Scored from ‘well below average’ to ‘well above average’, Accra, Cape Town, Casablanca, Durban, Johannesburg and Tunis came out on top, or as close to the top as any city got, scoring ‘above average’. Dar es Salaam and Maputo sat at the bottom of the pile with a ‘well below average’ score, with Luanda and Nairobi scoring ‘below average’ and Addis Ababa, Alexandria, Cairo, Lagos and Pretoria scoring ‘average’. Whilst Singapore and Curitiba have previously been recipients of the ‘well above average’ rating, no African city was able to reach this level.

17 Sustainable Ideas for COP17 is a collaboration between This Big City and Future Cape Town running alongside the United Nations Climate Change Conference from November 28th to December 9th.

Image courtesy of Sarah Agarwal on flickr