Since 2015, the Urban Modelling and Metabolism Assessment (uMAMA) research team at the School of Public Leadership has been undertaking game-changing and exciting research aimed at tracking urban resource flows and thereby shaping African cities.
by PROF JOSEPHINE MUSANGO
Currently, there is lack of data-supported decision-making in urban planning, which undermines the building of sustainable communities and cities, particularly in the face of a rapidly urbanising Africa. To alleviate the lack of data, uMAMA is providing empirical cases of the metabolism of African cities. This it does by using a suite of innovative approaches that promotes bottom-up data collection through engagement with communities. And it is from this empirical evidence that it is developing theory specific to African cities.
One of uMAMA’s collaborative research projects is entitled Co-designing energy communities with energy poor women in urban areas: Case studies in Kenya, Uganda and South Africa (CoDEC) (www.codec.livinglab.co.ke). This project is one of nine awarded in 2017 by the Leading Integrated Research for Agenda 2030 (LIRA2030) in Africa programme. The project draws expertise from three African transdisciplinary research teams: the Living Lab (www.livinglab.co.ke) at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, led by Dr Amollo Ambole; the Urban Action Lab (www.ual.mak.ac.ug) at Makerere University in Uganda, led by Dr Kareem Buyana; and uMAMA (www.umama-africa.com) here at Stellenbosch University (SU), led by Prof Josephine Musango. The teams have extensive experience in and knowledge of systems thinking and systems dynamics in Africa, energy metabolism in African cities, sustainable energy, design, social innovation, social governance, the energy-gender-health nexus and informal urban environments.
The objective of the CoDEC project is to provide integrated solutions to the energy challenges of households in informal urban settlements. To achieve this objective, studies were undertaken in two informal urban settlements ˗ Mathare in Nairobi, Kenya, and Kasubi-Kawaala in Kampala, Uganda ˗ and the findings of these studies were compared to research findings from Enkanini in Stellenbosch. All the studies engaged the stakeholders (the settlement dwellers themselves), experts and policy actors. Knowledge will now be co-produced and gender-responsive options for improved household energy service provision will be co-designed. This will be able to contribute to improved policies. It will also be able to contribute to the realisation of the national energy goals of the three countries and to some of the international Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): good health and wellbeing (SDG3); gender equality (SDG5); affordable and clean energy (SDG7); and sustainable cities and communities (SDG11).
The first regional workshop of CoDEC was held in Nairobi from 9 to 11 April 2018. Forty participants were brought together, comprising the three teams, experts and policy actors from the Ministry of Energy in Kenya and the Kenya Power and Lighting Company, community members from Mathare, and funding representatives from LIRA and the International Development Research Centre. The uMAMA participants were Prof Musango, Ms Suzanne Smit (a PhD researcher) and Dr Zora Kovacic (a postdoctoral fellow joining the team in May 2018). There was opportunity for in-depth discussion among the project partners and the team participants on the project’s scientific, policy and societal relevance to the energy-gender-health nexus and for a visit to Mathare.
One of the key achievements by CoDEC during its first year of research was surveying 300 households in Kenya, Uganda and South Africa (using the Multiscale Integrated Assessment of Societal and Ecosystem Metabolism framework); another was the participatory mapping of energy sources in relation to work and other amenities in Mathare and Kasubi-Kawaala. Presentations were made at the International Council for Science in Taipei, the Nigeria Academy of Sciences in Abuja, the Nordic Africa Institute in Uppsala and the NEXUS conference in North Carolina. An article was also published in Geoforum, entitled Setting the scene for energy metabolism assessment of Nairobi city county.