African Urbanization: Assimilating Urban Metabolism into Sustainability Discourse and Practice

Shaping sustainable, equitable African cities requires strengthened investigations into the cities' current resource flows, infrastructure systems, and future resource requirements. The field of urban metabolism (UM) offers multiple forms of analysis with which to map, analyse, and visualize urban resource profiles. Challenges in assessing UM in African cities include data scarcity at the city level, difficulty in tracking informal flows, lack of standardized methods, and the open nature of cities. However, such analyses are needed at the local level, given that city practitioners cannot rely purely on urban planning traditions of the global North or the typically broad studies about urban Africa, for supporting strategies toward sustainable urban development. This article aims to draw together the concepts of sustainable development and UM and explore their application in the African context. Further, the article estimated resource profiles for 120 African cities, including consumption of biomass, fossil fuels, electricity, construction materials, and water, as well as emissions of carbon dioxide. These resource profiles serve as a baseline from which to begin assessing the current and future resource intensity of these cities. It also provides insights into the cities' relative resource impact, future consumption trends, and potential options for sustainability interventions.


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