Urbanization has the potential to radically shift the development trajectory of the African continent. Currently the world’s 100 fastest growing cities are in Africa and uniquely the region has the highest urbanization rate in the world and this will persist for the foreseeable future. By 2035 it is estimated that 50% of the continent’s population will be classified as urban. Until recently many African governments were in denial about the reality and potential of urbanization. This has changed in the run-up to Habitat III as reflected in the Africa Common Position adopted in 2016 under the aegis of the African Union.


The Cities Alliance partnership features a broad range of members, including: local authorities, national governments, non-governmental organisations, multi-lateral organisations, and Associate Members with a global focus. The partnership has decided to prioritise Africa in its programming and in light of the unique complexities of urbanization on the African Continent, it established the Cities Alliance Africa Think Tank. The primary purpose of the Think Tank is to be a critical friend to the Cities Alliance Partnership as it seeks to sharpen its programming. The African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town convenes and supports the Think Tank.





The purpose of the Cities Alliance Africa Think Tank is to:


  • Contribute substance and direction to the Cities Alliance Africa Strategy through strategic reflection, analysis and recommendations on urban challenges and new trends.
  • Promote and inform international public debates on urban policy, and develop a pro-urban narrative that highlights the role of cities in the structural transformation and sustainable development of Africa.


Think Tank Activities


The core work of the Think Tank is to continuously refine a compelling narrative on Africa’s urban transition that can shape debate and drive action towards effective urban policy responses in Africa. More specifically, the Think Tank will:


  • Map stakeholders in Africa’s urbanisation, detailing the key institutions and individuals capable of influencing a shift in thinking and practice on African cities, and identify targets for the Think Tank’s policy outputs and partnerships.


  • Provide greater visibility for the urban debate in Africa at development dialogue forums that will flow from the New Urban Agenda, and actively guide the implementation of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs—specifically Goal 11), Paris Agreement, and related sustainable urban development initiatives.


  • Produce position papers and policy briefs on Africa’s urban development.


  • Conduct research into urban innovations, including the setting up of a repository of innovations.


Think Tank Members


The Cities Alliance Africa Think Tank is chaired by Edgar Pieterse, Director of the African Centre for Cities, based at the University of Cape Town.


Alcinda Honwana, Professor in International Development at the Open University.


Clare Short, Chair of the Cities Alliance Management Board.


Fantu Cheru , Senior Researcher at the African Studies Centre, Leiden (the Netherlands).


Fébé Potgieter-Gqubule, Deputy Chief of Staff in the Bureau of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Addis Ababa.


Gustave Massiah, Professor Emeritus of Urbanism and President of the Support Group of Africities.


Jane Weru, Executive Director and founding member of the Akiba Mashinani Trust, Kenya.


Jean-Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General of United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa).


Kadiatou Sy, former Minister of Town Planning and Housing in the Government of Mali.


Mohamed Halfani, former Head of Research at United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), Nairobi.


Trevor Manuel, former Cabinet Minister in the Government of South Africa.


Yemi Cardoso, Chair of Board, Citibank Nigeria.




Please see the following information and policy briefs that have been developed as part of the Cities Alliance Africa Think Tank work in 2016:


Urban Policy Coalitions

Infrastructure and Smart Transitions


For enquiries, contact: caatt@uct.ac.za