City2City

Revised Write-up

COVID-19 in Africa Cities: Impacts, Responses and Policies

27 June 2020 - The report proposes several interventions to promptly and effectively address the challenges of COVID-19 pandemic in Africa at the urban level led by national and local governments supported by international and regional development institutions.

27 June 2020 - COVID-19, a global pandemic declared by the World Health Organization (WHO), is crippling the global economy and upending people’s lives thereby threatening sustainable development across all its dimensions. Africa is also facing the dire consequences of the crisis, necessitating timely response, recovery and rebuilding policies and strategies. Globally, urban areas are the epicenters of the epidemic accounting for most of the confirmed COVID-19 cases.

UN-Habitat in collaboration with UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG), African Development Bank (AfDB), and Shelter Afrique have joined hands to produce this new report: COVID-19 in African Cities: Impacts, Responses and Policies.

The report proposes several interventions to promptly and effectively address the challenges of COVID-19 pandemic in Africa at the urban level led by national and local governments supported by international and regional development institutions.

Download the Full Report Here: https://unhabitat.org/covid-19-in-africa-cities-impacts-responses-and-policies

Online Course - Development and Planning in African Cities

22 June 2020 - As African cities grow, learn how development and planning help urban actors to make cities just and sustainable for all.

22 June 2020 - In the next 35 years, Africa will need to accommodate almost 900 million new urban dwellers. Hundreds of smaller cities are doubling in size every 20 years, half of Africa’s urban dwellers live in informal settlements in precarious conditions, and 75% of these are younger than 35.

Development and Planning in African Cities: Exploring theories, policies and practices from Sierra Leone will explore African cities through the lenses of spatial justice and social diversity, challenging myths and assumptions about urban development and demonstrating how different processes interact and shape the development of a city.

What topics will you cover?

Week 1: Introduction to development and planning in African cities

  • What is development? What is planning?
  • Normative crosscutting lenses: spatial justice and social diversity
  • Urban change and the evolution of planning

Week 2: Urban land & informalities

  • Diversity of meanings, values, and functions of urban land
  • Formal and informal urban land markets and tenure systems
  • What are urban informalities? Economic and spatial dimensions of informality

Week 3: Governance & planning

  • Devolution of powers and fiscal autonomy
  • Scales: city-level, metropolitan, regional
  • Participatory planning (planning from below)

Week 4: Urban risk, vulnerabilities & infrastructure

  • Understanding urban risk and coping/adaptation strategies
  • Urban health
  • Co-production of urban infrastructures.

Course Instructors:

  • Andrea Rigon is working on inequalities, diversity and cities in global South. Based at Bartlett Development Planning Unit, University College London. Founder of Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre. T: @rigonandre
  • Joseph M Macarthy is an urban research expert and a well-established scholar in urban planning and management. He is the Executive director of SLURC and lectures at Njala University.

Who is the course for?

  • The course is open to people from any disciplinary background with a desire to learn about urban development and planning in African cities and potentially to those who would like to pursue a career in urban development or planning.
  • It is suitable for urban professionals who work or may in the future want to work in Sub-Saharan Africa and would like to gain an understanding of how its cities are made and developed.

Start Date: The course is available now and will take four week to complete. The start date is flexible and can be selected on the course website.

To Register and Find More Information on the Course: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/african-cities

Ripe for Reform: Policy Implications for African Cities during Covid-19

5 August 2020 - In a recent World Bank study, economists Somik Lall and Sameh Wahba argue that economic geography, not physical geography, determines the risk of contagion. This is a critical finding for African cities, which struggle with informal settlements, poor planning and infrastructure, and a lack of basic services like water supply. 

5 August 2020 - In a recent World Bank study, economists Somik Lall and Sameh Wahba argue that economic geography, not physical geography, determines the risk of contagion. The Covid-19 virus has spread the fastest in urban zones where people lack access to indoor floor space, sound infrastructure, and the capacity to spend time safely outdoors distanced from others. In New York City, the borough of Queens became a hotbed of contagion while the Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea—a richer, more densely populated area—saw comparatively low case counts. The risk of contagion increases as neighborhoods lack physical infrastructure and amenities and where residents are forced to make ends meet by venturing outside in search of employment or services.

This is a critical finding for African cities, which struggle with informal settlements, poor planning and infrastructure, and a lack of basic services like water supply. CSIS Africa Program director Judd Devermont sat down with Somik and Sameh to understand these weak spots and discuss what African municipalities can do to build inclusive and sustainable cities in the pandemic recovery.

  • Somik Lall is the World Bank’s global lead for territorial and spatial development and the lead urban economist in the World Bank’s Urban, Disaster Risk Management, Resilience, and Land Global Practice.
  • Sameh Wahba is the global director for the World Bank’s Urban, Disaster Risk Management, Resilience, and Land Global Practice.

The discussion, moderated by Judd Devermont, has been edited for purposes of brevity and clarity.

JD: I want to start with the urban myth that you debunk in your work, which is that urban congestion means that there will be greater disease contagion and spread. Can you share what you found in your newest study?

SL: Sure. As you said, the idea that dense cities are hotbeds of contagion—and that proximity is a key facilitator in the spread of Covid-19—is a myth. It is a myth because it falsely conflates physical proximity with economic density. But if a city has ample housing, water supply, sanitation, basic drainage, and public space, then there is no reason why proximity should lead to contagion.

We use New York City as an example. In late March and early April, the borough of Queens was the hotbed of contagion. And we asked ourselves, “Okay, what is it about Queens, which is much less densely populated than the borough of Manhattan?” In Queens, people live in crowded accommodations with multigenerational families. In Manhattan, you have public-health investments, decent infrastructure, and outdoor space.

So, this generalization that density is a bad thing is just an urban myth. We should be focusing on the economic geography of a neighborhood, of a city, of a region—not just the physical geography.

SW: Determinants for hotspots of contagion are (1) the quality of the built environment; and (2) the livelihoods of the people living there. Both of these determinants are captured in the notion of economic geography in the sense that we’ve got cities that are dense in population but that have built environments that can sustain social distancing, physical distancing. Cities like Seoul and Singapore have done well in coping with the crisis, but some Chinese cities, for example, have failed.

Out of all Chinese cities, those with intermediate population densities fared much worse than those with high population density, the Beijings and the Shanghais of this world. And the reason is their built environment, which lacks infrastructure. But in more densely populated Chinese cities, the built-up floor space allows for social distancing and the quality of public space, plus they have the specialized medical facilities that help them sustain and cope with the pandemic.

The other thing is livelihoods. If you live in a township in South Africa or in an informal settlement in any sub-Saharan African city, dense or not, livelihoods are precarious, and you may not have the ability to stay at home. You neither have the broadband connectivity nor the type of job that allows you to stay at home and telework. In order to make ends meet, you are forced to leave your house and risk becoming exposed to the virus.

JD: Where does that put Africa in this context? Queens may not have all of the investments required to address Covid-19, but most people would expect that Queens is going to be better equipped than an average urban environment in Africa. So, what does the Africa picture look like?

SL: That is exactly what we are focusing on at the World Bank. We’ve put together a methodology that asks, "If we have very limited civic resources, how do we allocate them most effectively to reach the most vulnerable?"

Africa's urbanization has happened quickly with a lack of focus on infrastructure, which has led to an increase in slums. In fact, Africa is the only part of the world where the number of urban inhabitants living in slums has increased over time.

We used our “hotspots methodology” to inform our partners in African cities how best to prioritize resources. In Kinshasa, 75 percent of inhabitants are vulnerable to exposure of Covid-19. That is because it's not only particular neighborhoods, but whole swaths of areas in the city that have limited investments in housing, limited access to public services like water, sanitation at home, and limited outdoor space around their home to step out while maintaining social distance.

At this point, we have worked with about 15 cities in Africa. We have worked with Nairobi, Mombasa, Kinshasa, Accra, and others. And we are systematically applying this methodology to help both our World Bank response, but also more importantly, the cities’ own responses, in doing three things.

The first is, how do we improve and expand safety nets? In many of these cities, you'll see if we were to think about a social protection scheme, there isn't really information at the neighborhood level to identify who's poor and who's not. Who's more vulnerable and who's not.

Second, we're using the methodology to improve conditions in informal settlements where services are quite precarious. And third, we're using these like we're doing in Kinshasa and Nairobi as a stepping-stone to answer the question, "What comes next?" The coronavirus is not the only shock these cities are going to get.

And it's not the only thing that will come in the way of development, so how do we use this as an opportunity to help cities and communities build back, better?

SW: A key point here is the speed at which sub-Saharan African cities often form. Poor people are moving in at high rates, and most cities in the region are growing by 4-5 percent per year. You've even got even cities like Ouagadougou [the capital of Burkina Faso] that are growing at 10 percent per year.

These cities are urbanizing quickly, and governments have neither the resources for infrastructure nor the land market regulations for orderly development. Therefore, poor people find themselves with no options but to settle in precarious lands to be near jobs. Places that are flood prone, that are landslide prone, that are environmentally sensitive, atop mangroves or garbage dumps, et cetera.

JD: I've learned from your work that these urban areas are highly disconnected, right? It’s not easy to move between parts of the city such as poorer neighborhoods and the central business district (CBD).

SW: Exactly. The first part is settling on precarious land because of the dysfunctional land market, which means that you are trading livability for economic opportunity. At the same time, because of the dysfunctions in mobility and connectedness that you're referring to, when you look at a city like Nairobi, half of the population walks an average of one hour to work. While they have a CBD, most of the jobs are scattered throughout the city.

Now, if they have to walk to work and there are no sidewalks, then it's one hour of being exposed to the virus. You add another 25 percent of the population that takes the matatus [taxi buses] to work, and again, because of a lack of road space and the congestion, these people are moving at 11 kilometers per hour. This results in lost productivity and a greater chance of becoming infected.

And then you throw in the impact of the built environment in terms of the comorbidities. In a slum like Kibera, in Nairobi, the prevalence of diarrhea and water-borne diseases from a lack of sewerage means that people are much more vulnerable from a health perspective. So, it's land-use planning, mobility, the quality of the built environment, and its impact on public health.

JD: It seems like your methodology does two things: (1) it helps you assess the overall urban vulnerabilities; and (2) it helps the World Bank and partner governments identify the most vulnerable areas within any given city. Can you walk us through your methodology?

SL: When we started working on this, it was March 14, and nobody had a clue about how the coronavirus was going to spread. Everyone was making wild guesses. So we said, "What do we really know that can get us something quick, that can be used by cities and is reasonably accurate?"

We decided, "There's three things we want to do." One, we need to know where people live. And we need to figure out this out very quickly. So, we used satellite data from global, open-access datasets.

Second, we wanted to know how do they live? Do they have enough floor space at home? We calculated floor space and got data from OpenStreetMap on the location of water points and public toilets. In addition, in some cities we identified the location of wet markets. Then we asked the question, "How easy or how difficult would it be for people to stay at home? And if they were to stay at home, what's the risk of contagion?"

We computed a simple algorithm that allowed us to calculate the number of people who wouldn't be able to socially separate, to have two meters between them. We came up with these hot spots that even under the most rigid safety measures, there's the number of people who are at risk of exposure.

JD: Let’s shift to policy. You provide a number of recommendations. Walk us through what international and local policymakers need to do.

SW: The most critical recommendation is to accommodate unfettered growth. And this means planning and doing things correctly the first time. It's understood that many cities will not have the resources upfront to lay the pipes and put in the paved roads. But these municipalities should ensure that when they upgrade their infrastructure, they’re not paying four to seven dollars for every dollar they would have otherwise paid had they planned upfront. Planning means reserving public spaces for sidewalks, for parks, but also for health centers, for schools, et cetera. It also means taking into account things like floor area ratio and land values and planning how many stories you are able to build on a certain land unit. That means investing in infrastructure that can sustain density, i.e., multistory buildings.

Regularizing land tenure can unleash a lot of private investment. Nobody's going to invest in their housing or offices when their tenure is insecure. But the moment you provide security of tenure, people can improve their housing conditions, and you can start transforming a slum into a normal city neighborhood.

JD: In some slums, there are entire networks of informal structures that people profit off of. Is there a pathway for reform in these areas?

SW: In Nairobi, 91 percent of its population rents their housing. This is because there's a major concentration of land ownership, especially in places like Kibera, where it’s just a few families that own the land and houses. If you really want to nudge Nairobi to develop in a more sustainable way, there needs to be political change to unlock the land market. The government must have the political will to come in, buy back the land from the landowners, and begin regularizing. Then you will begin transforming the city.

If you start bringing in the whole nine yards of improvement—the water, the sanitation, the paved roads, the drainage—at the same time, in a city where 70, 80 percent of the built environment does not have the infrastructure, you're going to see gentrification. Basically, the middle class is going to move in. So you need to figure out a process of upgrading these areas incrementally.

JD: How big is the appetite for this kind of reform?

SL: I personally think this moment is ripe for reform. Let me explain why. The rich were always able to shield themselves from the ills of urbanization, like crime, violence, traffic congestion. But they are not able to shield themselves from a pandemic. It has the capacity to spread throughout the city because the city is an interconnected labor market with hotspots of viral transmission, many of which are informal settlements with poor economic geography. If you don’t address these hotspots, you’ll never be able to contain the virus.

It doesn’t have to be expensive. Yes, it is costly to implement all the infrastructure needed to regularize informal settlements, but you can do it in an incremental fashion. Governments should start with regularizing land tenure, which is not very costly and gives people the incentive to improve their housing and invest in it as opposed to just doing the bare minimum because they’re afraid the government will take it away.

I think it’s the wake-up call that we needed in many ways, and the policymakers that we're talking to are cognizant of these challenges and potential opportunities for growth. They are cognizant about doing something about waste management, about water and sanitation, about regularizing land tenure and slums.

One of the big things we really believe in—with regard to resilient recovery—is good development policy. There is a trillion-dollar deficit of infrastructure finance in African cities, and now is the time to get our focus on this really important issue. Getting land management right and coordinating the infrastructure—I think those are critical building blocks toward a resilient future for African cities.

Judd Devermont is the director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C.

Commentary is produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s).

© 2020 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. All rights reserved.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE LINK

Image of Nairobi by Nina Stock from Pixabay 

Ethiopia’s Rapid Urbanization Requires Innovative Municipal Finance

18 June 2020 - By 2037, Ethiopia’s urban population will double to 42.3 million people. Job creation and innovative municipal financing mechanisms will be integral to a successful urban transition and long term economic growth for the country.

18 June 2020 - By 2037, Ethiopia’s urban population will double to 42.3 million people. Job creation and innovative municipal financing mechanisms will be integral to a successful urban transition and long term economic growth for the country.

To drive the creation of new revenue streams through its industrial sector, Ethiopia has built over a dozen industrial parks in recent years. At full capacity, an industrial park can employ nearly 60,000 people. While the parks were conceived as comprehensive developments with all necessary public services, these plans have not materialized. As a result, cities near the parks have experienced increased pressure to provide services to the inflow of workers to these areas – a monumental task for any secondary city already constrained to provide necessary urban services.

Hawassa (population 250,000), for example, is a city encompassing Hawassa Industrial Park. At capacity, the Park could mean a 24 percent increase in the area population competing for access to core services. Hawassa Industrial Park managers have already expressed concerns regarding the lack of nearby affordable housing and of adequate transportation to connect industrial park laborers to the city. As a result, many workers reside in the periphery of Hawassa and find it challenging to access jobs in the Park. Accommodating this influx of workers in Hawassa appears to be a daunting challenge because the city already experiences severe fiscal shortages to provide services for the existing population.

As demonstrated by the situation in Hawassa, the speed and scale of Ethiopia’s urbanization demand an innovative approach to financing urban service delivery. Typically, when a city needs to finance large capital projects, they issue bonds in the commercial market and dedicate a portion of the annual revenue to service this debt over a course of 20 years. However, the option to issue municipal bonds remains elusive to Ethiopian cities due to a) unclear rules and regulations on municipal borrowing stemming from incomplete decentralization, and b) a lack of consistent revenue at the local level resulting in Ethiopian cities’ inability to demonstrate creditworthiness and borrow from the capital market.

One option, which is to be explored through USAID programming, is educating Ethiopian cities about pooled municipal bonds, which operate by merging the revenue streams of multiple cities into one bond. Municipal bonds mitigate risks for investors; if one city defaults on a payment, other cities can help finance the gap. This aggregation can help smaller secondary cities like Hawassa access commercial markets for infrastructure development. 

Commercial market lending will be necessary for Ethiopia’s future urban development. Borrowing from the capital market enables cities to make immediate investments, rather than wait until there is sufficient capital. USAID is planning to work closely with secondary cities municipalities across the country, providing technical assistance and support to find the right financing blend and structure to support self-reliance in Ethiopia. 

USAID has long recognized the importance of fiscally self-reliant cities in advancing democratic governance. In the countries where USAID is a partner, municipal finance has the potential to significantly improve commerce and expand industry through more reliable and predictable urban service delivery and infrastructure development.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE LINKhttps://urban-links.org/insight/ethiopias-rapid-urbanization-requires-innovative-municipal-finance/

Image: Hawassa Industrial Park (Photo by: Mimi Abebayehu)

Addis Ababa Is Fighting to Avoid the Worst of COVID-19, But Transport Challenges Are Hampering Containment Efforts

10 June 2020 - Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s bustling capital and showcase for the government’s response so far, has closed schools and taken steps to reduce normal levels of travel to impede the spread of the virus.

10 June 2020 - Contrary to what many speculated, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ethiopia has been low so far. As of May 18, 2020, the Ministry of Health confirmed it had a total of 352 cases of COVID-19 of which 30% recovered and 1.4% died. The country has also avoided a full lockdown on travel – in part because its health care system can’t handle even a small number of cases. But Addis Ababa, the country’s bustling capital and showcase for the government’s response so far, has closed schools and taken steps to reduce normal levels of travel to impede the spread of the virus. And there’s much more to be done.

The risk of COVID-19 spreading in Addis Ababa and then to other cities and rural areas has significant socio-economic consequences for the country. According to World Bank estimations, a shock that would reduce household consumption by 10% would raise poverty by 6% and in urban areas push around 800,000 people below the poverty line, eliminating gains made on poverty between 2011 and 2016. It has never been more critical to address key elements of the transport network to keep transmission rates low and livelihoods afloat.

Mobilizing Transport Resources

A Multidisciplinary Emergency Response team, chaired by the Minister of Transport, is overseeing response plans for the nation. In addition to discussing the challenges and solutions of proposed interventions, the Ministry hosts weekly meetings where experts are invited to share experiences from other countries and advise on current strategies. This sort of platform strengthens communication, increases accountability and taps into a broader pool of knowledge.

More recently, the task force has explored options of digitizing transport related payment services to reduce contact, giving road priority to public transport, and promoting and expanding cycling (including accelerating some plans that were already in the pipeline).

In Addis Ababa, public buses are being held to half normal capacity and the city’s light rail system has cut occupancy to just a quarter of normal capacity. Public transport operators regularly sanitize vehicles and provide staff and passengers with masks, gloves and disinfectants. Everyone is now required to wear masks in public spaces.

A road rationing scheme was also introduced to help reduce the number of cars on the road and thus allow for increased frequency of public transport routes to make up for the lower capacity of each trip. But this plan was reversed after fierce pushback from private vehicle owners and the poor state of alternatives modes of transport.

Vulnerabilities Come to Light

On one hand it’s impressive how much has been done at both the national and city level in such a short amount of time, but COVID-19 has also demonstrated the fragility of Addis Ababa’s transport system and accentuated challenges that existed prior to the pandemic.

Restricting Travel Is Close to Impossible

Lack of integration between land use and urban transport has given rise to a huge number of unnecessary trips, high congestion, costly fuel consumption, pollution and low productivity. Activity centers, market areas and working places are not well connected with residential areas by public transport or well-developed road infrastructure.

As a result, major corridors are congested with private cars and commercial vehicles. Restricting essential travel is thus close to impossible, let alone non-essential travel, as basic services are not within walking distance for the vast majority of people. With an almost non-existent remote work culture and poor digital infrastructure, it is proving difficult for people to work from home, too.

A Patchwork Bus System Is Failing the Worst Off

Even with a range of public transport options that is unusual in many African cities, including an urban light rail system, 26,000 public buses, and over 15,000 minibuses, long queues for public transport are still a common sight during peak hours. Some 35% of the population uses public transport, accounting for 2.3 million daily trips. To protect the minibus industry and the millions whose livelihoods depend on it, tariffs for privately owned minibuses were doubled to compensate for the 50% reduction in passengers. For those that couldn’t afford to pay, public buses such as Sheger and Anbessa became the only option, as their fares stayed the same. As a result, public buses are being overwhelmed and the poorest are facing a choice between higher fares or more dangerous crowding.

Fare Systems Make Physical Distancing Untenable  

Reducing occupancy is one way to enforce physical distancing on public transport, and usually this is coupled with completely shifting to electronic payment systems. However, currently all fare payments in Addis Ababa are cash based, making contactless payment very difficult.

One bus operator retrofitted its buses with fareboxes and plastic sheets behind the driver to reduce risk of transmission from cash transactions. Yet it has not been easy scaling this to other operators. Minibus operators across Africa have long resisted the digitizing of payment systems, fearing any attempt to take cash out of operators’ hands.

The recently set up National Technology Task Force has been tasked with finding ways to increase digital transactions, recognizing that there are infrastructure and regulatory hurdles to overcome, including an internet penetration rate of just 18%.

Cycling Is Not Yet a Mature Alternative

As public transit is overwhelmed, COVID-19 has made it easier to make the case for cycling and debunks the myth that cycling is not for African cities. Cycling has become a preferred alternative to public transport and the number of cyclists has increased throughout the city.

But cities have to help change the perception that cycling is only for the poor and shift investments towards better walking and cycling facilities. While Addis Ababa has moved on cycling, it has moved slowly. It took two years for the Addis Ababa Safe Cycling Program to take off and to implement a single 3.5-kilometer cycling corridor.

The Ministry of Transport has expressed strong interest to leverage the current shift and further encourage cycling by supporting interventions that can make it more accessible and affordable for all.

CONTINUE READING: https://thecityfix.com/blog/addis-ababa-fighting-avoid-worst-covid-19-transport-challenges-hampering-containment-efforts-iman-abubaker/

Image: COVID-19 has exposed systemic challenges in Addis Ababa’s transport sector. Photo by ITDP Africa/Flickr

Smart Anti- Epidemic Robots Fight COVID-19 in Rwanda

UNDP Accelerator Lab partnered with the Ministry of ICT and Innovation to acquire and deploy five smart anti-epidemic robots for use in two COVID-19 treatment centers and at the Kigali International Airport. The robots will support detection of COVID-19 cases including among returning citizens, test patients, and provide other services in the hospitals.

The outbreak of the coronavirus early this year created a conventional challenge for the global community – a viral pandemic affecting millions of people. However, UNDP saw this as an important moment to look for unconventional approaches and technologies to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus in Rwanda. The UNDP Accelerator Lab partnered with the Ministry of ICT and Innovation to acquire and deploy five smart anti-epidemic robots for use in two COVID-19 treatment centers and at the Kigali International Airport. The robots will support detection of COVID-19 cases including among returning citizens, test patients, and provide other services in the hospitals.

The initiative, a first of its kind for UNDP, is a risk mitigation measure to support the national COVID-19 response efforts, especially at a time when there is an increased number of COVID-19 positive patients, and a stretched health system. Designed with various advanced features, the robots will support doctors and nurses at the designated treatment centers and, in the future, at boarder points and other screening sites in Kigali and other provinces. Among other capabilities, the robots have the capacity to screen between 50 to 150 people per minute, deliver food and medication to patient rooms, capture data (video & audio), and notify officers on duty about detected abnormalities for timely response and case management. Such features are expected to increase timeliness and efficiency in the fight against COVID-19 and reduce exposure of health workers to possible Covid-19 infection.

UNDP and Government of Rwanda Deploy Smart Anti- Epidemic Robots to Fight Against COVID-19

01 June 2020 - UNDP Accelerator Lab partnered with the Ministry of ICT and Innovation to acquire and deploy five smart anti-epidemic robots for use in two COVID-19 treatment centers and at the Kigali International Airport. The robots will support detection of COVID-19 cases including among returning citizens, test patients, and provide other services in the hospitals.

01 June 2020 - The outbreak of the coronavirus early this year created a conventional challenge for the global community – a viral pandemic affecting millions of people. However, UNDP saw this as an important moment to look for unconventional approaches and technologies to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus in Rwanda. The UNDP Accelerator Lab partnered with the Ministry of ICT and Innovation to acquire and deploy five smart anti-epidemic robots for use in two COVID-19 treatment centers and at the Kigali International Airport. The robots will support detection of COVID-19 cases including among returning citizens, test patients, and provide other services in the hospitals.

The initiative, a first of its kind for UNDP, is a risk mitigation measure to support the national COVID-19 response efforts, especially at a time when there is an increased number of COVID-19 positive patients, and a stretched health system. Designed with various advanced features, the robots will support doctors and nurses at the designated treatment centers and, in the future, at boarder points and other screening sites in Kigali and other provinces. Among other capabilities, the robots have the capacity to screen between 50 to 150 people per minute, deliver food and medication to patient rooms, capture data (video & audio), and notify officers on duty about detected abnormalities for timely response and case management. Such features are expected to increase timeliness and efficiency in the fight against COVID-19 and reduce exposure of health workers to possible Covid-19 infection.

The robots were acquired through ZoraBots Africa Ltd from their parent company ZoraBots in Brussels, Belgium, and given contextualized Rwandan names that represent the spirit of the nation that emerged from the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. With names such as Urumuri (light), Ingabo (shield), and Ikizere (hope), the robots represent hope and the promise of a better future ahead.

According to the UNDP Resident Representative, Mr. Stephen Rodriques, COVID-19 presents a huge, complex challenge that requires us to think differently, search for new solutions, and use every available resource (financial & human) to stop its spread. In 2019 UNDP Rwanda established its Accelerator Lab (AccLab) – a small team of national experts with unique skills – to work inside the country office and help search for and support development innovations and solutions. Rwanda is well known for its appetite for innovation, and a history of developing home grown solutions to complex development challenges.  

Experience has shown that a few countries, notably in Asia, have used similar technologies to help flatten the Covid-19 curve. Initial simulations carried out during training of technicians, nurses and doctors that will use the robots also showed tremendous potential for the technology.

We recognize that the current number of robots is not enough to serve the needs in all the critical locations identified by the Government. More resources and partnerships are needed to support and scale the initiative. It should also be noted that the small number of robots will be be used in the highest risk Covid treatment locations supporting the doctors and nurses while minimizing their exposure to possible infection. There will be no loss of jobs. Instead, local Rwandans have gained jobs and have been trained to service and maintain the robots.

The ground is set for experimentation, and we are looking forward to seeing how the lessons and information garnered from this experiment will inform further responses to this and future emergencies. For now, we hope this experiment with a new way of working will contribute meaningfully to efforts to save lives and allow Rwandans and residents alike to resume their normal activities and adjust to the new normal.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE LINK: https://www.undp.org/content/rba/en/home/presscenter/articles/2020/undp-deploys-smart-anti--epidemic-robots-to-fight-against-covid-.html

Image: UNDP Rwanda

Youth key in fight against coronavirus

03 May 2020 - As COVID-19 (coronavirus) continues to wreak havoc around the world experts predict that African countries could be the hardest hit. But African youth are not sitting idly by waiting for the worst to come; throughout the continent, they are hard at work providing solutions to help reduce the spread of the virus and address the socio-economic impact of the pandemic.

03 May 2020 - As COVID-19 (coronavirus) continues to wreak havoc around the world experts predict that African countries could be the hardest hit. But African youth are not sitting idly by waiting for the worst to come; throughout the continent, they are hard at work providing solutions to help reduce the spread of the virus and address the socio-economic impact of the pandemic.

It is encouraging to see young people across Africa leading the way in the fight against coronavirus, and stepping up to help their communities. They know the future depends on their actions.

Indeed, youth represent energy, creativity and innovation and should be beacons of hope that can support the community at all times especially in times of such crisis. Through individual acts and collective action, young people are reclaiming power in the face of this pandemic and the powerlessness it makes us all feel. Youth-led civil society and movements are acting on an unprecedented scale. Youth are mobilizing communities to protect themselves, and supporting governments and health workers together.

Isaac 'Kaka' Muasa of Mathare Environmental One Stop in Kenya has teamed up with the UN-Habitat, the Norwegian Embassy and the Canadian High Commission to support residents of Mathare slums to stop spread of coronavirus in the poor neighborhood. The group has begun a hand-washing program meant to protect Mathare residents from COVID-19. As a result of the initiative, children and young people make up the majority of the people who are washing their hands.

What would be the situation when COVID-19 strikes in the urban slums of Nairobi or other low-income areas? This is scary to even imagine. That is why Emmie Kemper, through Miss Koch Kenya not-for-profit youth empowerment organization, is leading young people in her neighborhood to support the most vulnerable in the sprawling slums of Korogocho. They have supported hundreds of families whose livelihoods have been disrupted.

In Cameroon, Achalake Christian, the coordinator of Local Youth Corner, has launched the “One Person, One Sanitizer” operation to prevent the spread of coronavirus, especially among the poor. He’s working with young people to produce and distribute free,  homemade hand sanitizers using World Health Organization standards. He has teamed up with people of goodwill, the coalition of youth civil society organizations, medical doctors, pharmacists and a laboratory scientist.

Sibongumusa Zuma is causing waves with his humanitarian action in South Africa. Across the country, street hawkers have been prohibited from trading during the national lockdown. It is hard for everyone but for the street vendors it’s harder. To help ease the impact, he has organized young people to donate groceries to street hawkers. Zuma says that as young people, they cannot sit down and fold their arms knowing very well that there are people who used to make a living by selling food on the street, whose businesses are closing due to the lockdown.

In Botswana, Pretty Thogo is coordinating a platform that brings the World Bank Africa Youth Transforming Africa initiative and the Youth Alliance for Leadership and Development in Africa are organizing regular roundtables for youth to discuss development, and spark some youth-grown solutions to influence policymaking in Africa. During its first online roundtable in April, the initiative featured medical and communications experts, and helped young Africans to learn more about COVID-19 and how to identify trusted sources of information.

Similarly, with the leadership of Immy Mulekatete and Dr. Joseph Ryarasa Nkurunziza, Youth Voices Rwanda is hosting Twitter and Facebook live discussions for youth on impact of COVID-19 had in their communities and the role they can play in containing its spread.

Then there is James Smart and Kizito Gamba in Nairobi, who are leading a team of young journalists under Tazama World Media. They are putting their lives on the line to bring out compelling stories on the effect of coronavirus among the extreme poor in South Africa, and detailing why quick, robust and well-thought responses are required.

CONTINUE READING: https://blogs.worldbank.org/youth-transforming-africa/youth-key-fight-against-coronavirus

Photo: Kenya Ministry of Health

African Cities — Disrupting the Urban Future

The future of humanity is urban.

Africa is the fastest urbanizing continent in the world with an expected 1.2 billion urban residents by 2050. The continent’s urbanisation comes with extraordinary transformative potential, but the structural hurdles are equally huge. Historically, there is compelling evidence to suggest that urbanisation and economic growth are mutually reinforcing. Yet in Africa, urbanisation is happening in a context of slow structural transformation, pervasive urban poverty and inequalities that compromise a hopeful urban future.

Building on the 2018 Istanbul Innovation Days, the 2019 Harare Innovation Days on #NextGenCities was focussed on the strategic risks and opportunities inherent in Africa’s rapid urbanisation. It invited senior civil servants responsible for cities and brought them together with cutting-edge practitioners working on urban solutions from digitally-enabled distributed infrastructure provision to nature-based solutions, and from participatory city-making to sustainable food systems.

Harare Innovation Days is twinned with an Asia-Pacific focussed Innovation Days event in 2020 on #NextGenGov. Following both events, we aim to open up new pathways for targeted support for collaborative experimentation and learning trajectories within governments starting in the Asia-Pacific, Africa and Arab States region. The Innovation Days have emerged as UNDP’s corporate R&D function, which aims to influence the demand and alert governments to trends and risks, accelerate learning about their potential implications and creates space for strategic co-creation of potential systemic pathways of response — thereby enhancing our transformational capacity to continuously refresh our programmatic offering vis-a-vis our partner countries.

To read the full article, click here

Africa's Urbanisation Dynamics 2020: Africapolis, Mapping a New Urban Geography

Africa is projected to have the fastest urban growth rate in the world: by 2050, Africa’s cities will be home to an additional 950 million people.

Much of this growth is taking place in small and medium-sized towns. Africa’s urban transition offers great opportunities but it also poses significant challenges. Urban agglomerations are developing most often without the benefit of policies or investments able to meet these challenges. Urban planning and management are therefore key development issues. Understanding urbanization, its drivers, dynamics, and impacts are essential for designing targeted, inclusive and forward-looking policies at local, national and continental levels. This report, based on the Africapolis geospatial database (www.africapolis.org) covering 7,600 urban agglomerations in 50 African countries, provides detailed analyses of major African urbanization dynamics placed within historical, environmental and political contexts. Covering the entire distribution of the urban network — from small towns and secondary cities to large metropolitan regions — it develops more inclusive and targeted policy options that integrate local, national and regional scales of urban development in line with African realities.

Africa's Urbanisation Dynamics 2020: Africapolis, Mapping a New Urban Geography can be accessed at the following link from February 07, 2020:

http://www.oecd.org/publications/africa-s-urbanisation-dynamics-2020-b6bccb81-en.htm