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African Infrastructure Futures: Building Common Purpose for Urban Success

22 November - 23 November

The African Centre for Cities, along with its hosting partners, convene the African Infrastructure Futures Conference from 21-23 November 2022, in Cape Town, South Africa. The conference is curated as follows: Day 1 will adopt a more traditional academic conference format and Day 2 and 3 will focus on the substance of policy and practice debates.

POLICY CONFERENCE | 22-23 November 2022

The starting point of the two-day policy conference will be to establish a shared sense of urgency about the effects of dysfunctional urbanisation amidst an unfolding climate emergency that threatens to destroy infrastructure, livelihoods and inter-generational mobility. The voices of youthful African climate activists will set the scene.

Next, we get concrete by defining in precise terms what the sustainable infrastructure opportunity is to forge a unique African pathway to address urbanisation and broader green growth imperatives.

Then, we locate the sustainable urban infrastructure imperative within the larger pan-African vision and programme for a common market and more diverse economies, but all aligned with commitments in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for carbon reduction and imperatives of green industrialisation as promoted by UNECA. This is to acknowledge that cities can’t make progress without national government buy-in and leadership.

On the back of definitional clarity and macro implications, the discussion will shift to questions of financing sustainable infrastructure and divesting from unsustainable technologies. There’s been a proliferation of discussions about the infrastructure gap. Instead of rehearsing those arguments, we focus on three examples of attempted innovation and ask DFIs what it will take to mainstream these initiatives across Africa.

However, it would be a grave error to suggest that mainstreaming sustainable infrastructure approaches is simply a matter of technical competence and political will. It demands mindset change within society and leaders because too many Africans remain enamoured by visions of future urbanity that are carbon copies of Dubai, Singapore and Shanghai. To insinuate this dimension into the conference we’ll host a TED-style talk by one of Africa’s leading architects, which will serve as a reminder that our challenge is not simply to provide infrastructure but to create cities filled with opportunity, beauty and cultural resonance. Cities are always civilisational projects.

Sound data is essential for evidence-based policy making and transparency fuels accountability and performance. The conference will explore the role of research, data, learning and intelligent feedback loops in forging partnerships to drive increased investment in sustainable infrastructure.

Lastly, given the unique conditions that confront African cities, it is essential that we invest in the creation of “city-level innovation ecosystems” to support the transition from unsustainable to sustainable infrastructure and urbanism.

The Conference has reached capacity.