Towards making cities resilient, Urban development experts have advocated the need to strengthen local councils’ capacity and institutions across the country and Africa to achieve economic survival, effective management of urban and rural shocks such as homelessness, flooding, epidemic, fire disasters, climate change and infrastructure deficit.
They noted that compounding issues in healthcare, economy and society have exposed the fragilities of cities’ governments, businesses and communities to thrive, hence the need for proper physical and budgetary autonomy for councils.
According to them, cities have opportunity to prioritise investment initiatives and projects that meet the inter-connected needs of multiple systems and yield multiple benefits if local councils are granted freedom to play a leading role in physical development.
The experts spoke at the third yearly urbanisation and habitable cities conference, entitled, ‘Strengthening resilience in Africa,’ organised by the Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development (CHSD), University of Lagos.
Leading the call, the Director of CHSD, UNILAG, Prof. Timothy Nubi, said it is frightening to note that by 2035, 70 per cent of Africa’s population will be living in cities with the huge rate of migration.
He explained that the role of local councils is huge in ensuring resilience as the first point of call, adding that as seen in Nigeria and other parts of the world, they are described as ‘from Cradle to Grave.’ Nubi observed that the quality of local communities would determine the level of resilience against shocks.
The CHSD’s director said: “It’s time to get our hands down to working with our colleagues in governance. Further capacity building/training on grant applications, effective, wider and better dissemination of activities within the centre.
Given the impacts we have made, the UK Research and Innovation has extended our activities till May 2023, and we want to focus on supporting PhD students and early career researchers across Africa.”
The Global Director and Operations/Regional Director (Africa) Resilience Cities Network, Dr. Dana Omran, said building resilience is a generational work that requires an ‘all hands must be on deck’ approach with universities, research institutions supporting the cities to collect and analyse urban data, support technical project development and apply framework/tools to promote more sustainable and resilient long-term planning.
The Vice-Chancellor, University Of Lagos, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, said resilience is required in all ramification, adding that it is embedded in the administrative structure, as well as crafted programmes of the university towards providing critical workforce to fill manpower gap in the nation’s labour space.
Represented by the Deputy Vice Chancellor Academics and Research, Prof. Bola Oboh, Ogundipe observed that the African Research Network for Urbanisation and Habitable Cities (AR-NUHC) under the ARUA Centre of Excellence for Urbanisation and Habitable Cities, University of Lagos, has consistently been a trailblazer and provided unique platforms to engage, research and co-produce local knowledge and workable solutions to Africa’s challenges.
Co-Director, CHSD, Prof. Taibat Lawanson, emphasised the need for local level planning and indigenous knowledge system of urban planning and survival.
She lamented poor relationship between the knowledge institutions and policymakers. She said: “The challenge for researcher is bridging the gap, providing the evidence for policymakers to make decisions. The new urban agenda tells us that urban development will be made or marred at the local level. Across our cities, the weakest link to urban development is the local government system.”
The Chairperson, local organising committee of the conference, Prof. Modupe Omirin said the conference was organised due to concern with the physical, environmental, economic, social as well as administrative manifestations of urban shocks, their consequences, the articulations of urban dwellers’ efforts to cope while building back after each episode to ensure continuity in the habitat.
Omirin noted that 25 papers were considered out of 56 submitted, stressing that they emanate from rich combination of fields from 12 universities across five countries.