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Urban Metabolism of African Citieshttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=3593Urban Metabolism of African CitiesPaul Currie<p>​​​​first published at <a href="http://www.makingofcities.org/journal/urban-metabolism-of-african-cities">Making of Cities</a>    </p><p><br></p><p>I wander through cities and hear them humming around me. They are creatures, machines, fixtures, breathers, parts and pieces, relationships, conduits, conductors, caretakers and crushers. Each city has its own sounds and its own energies that draw my attention and set the rhythm of my feet. The unique vibes in different cities is unquestionable, but cities do follow very similar processes (see radiolab.org/story/91732-cities). Each city has systems for moving people around, for bringing food from afar, for delivering electricity to our light bulbs, water to our mouths, and data to our phones. These actions or processes can be understood as <em>flows</em>, simple or complex, interwoven, and present in the thousands. These flows of materials, energy, people and information form the <em>metabolism</em> of the city and are responsible for its existence. Unfortunately we do not have enough information about how these flows are conducted within cities, particularly in the global south, which means decisions about service delivery or sustainability are often made without data to prove their efficacy. </p><p> </p><p>Studying urban metabolism allows us to visualise and explain the complexity of socio-technical and socio-ecological processes by which flows of materials, energy, people and information enter and shape the city, service the needs of its people, and impact the surrounding environment. More simply, it shows how the city functions, what type and quantity of resources it uses, and how heavily the city impacts its environment. To aid exploration of urban metabolism, some conceptualise cities as organisms, while others as ecosystems. I prefer the suggestion that most contemporary cities behave as organisms, while the ideal city behaves as an ecosystem: An organism ingests food and water to power its body, to keep it living and thriving. Its wastes are then excreted, out of sight, out of mind. This is a typical modern city: resources come in, are used in processes of economic production (and hopefully human welfare), before the wastes are dumped in the surrounding environment. Cities tend to be located on key resources – most are on water and on fertile agricultural land. Of course there are those which defy a bioregional attitude and are placed on desert or on mineral wealth (Dubai, Las Vegas, Johannesburg). The wastes of cities have huge consequences for a city's hinterland, undermining natural ecosystems or poisoning people downstream. The global trade apparatus is so established that nations can even export their wastes to poorer places. Thus, a simple goal of urban metabolism analysis could be to make more efficient use of the fresh materials coming into the city, and to properly reuse or recycle waste flows. This is how the ecosystem conception is useful. Ecosystems are defined by relationships between organisms and abiotic systems. In the same way that an ecosystem makes use of detritivores to break down biological wastes into reusable nutrients, so too could the perfect city use our wastes to power its systems. Stockholm powers busses based on biogas from its sewage system. Toronto's wastewater system contains enough chemical energy to power itself (Bristow & Kennedy 2013). A cyclical metabolism is not only possible, but necessary for growing sustainable cities with low social and environmental impact.  </p><p> </p><p>It should be acknowledged that sustainability has multiple approaches. The mainstream sustainability discourse preaches resource efficiency. This is fine for developed spaces of the global north, where overconsumption is the daily routine. However, for countries in the global south, most people do not have access the basic resources they need, so the priority for these spaces is resource equity. The lack of formalised infrastructure in many of these spaces provides an opportunity to create infrastructure systems that are equitable as well as efficient.</p><p> </p><p>Shaping infrastructures requires assessing how flows are conducted in these cities. Resource flows can be formally coordinated and regulated by city planners or government, or follow informal patterns where government is unable or unwilling to provide resources. This can be visualised as the distinction between networked water pipes and decentralized water tankers, bottles, boreholes or sachet water provision, or by comparing supermarket tomatoes to those bought on the streetside. Both systems effectively get water or tomatoes to people, yet informal systems are typically shunned as they do not fit the desired northern (America, Europe, Asian Tigers) image of a modern city. This is problematic as informal systems predominate in cities of the global south and in Africa. Tapping into the innovation and adaptability of informal systems can be useful for city practitioners in providing services or addressing necessary city functions. The successes of waste picking systems in Brazil, India, and Egypt are easy examples. </p><p> </p><p>African cities predominantly function on informal systems as much of the networked infrastructure remains within the boundaries of original colonial settlements. Informality pervades public transport systems, water and food provision, energy generation and waste removal. Analysing these flows is difficult as they are hard to track and quantify. However, finding ways to do so is an important step for empowering city planners with more knowledge about the functions of their cities. </p><p> </p><p>African cities may share attributes such as informal economies, slum dwelling, high youth unemployment, migratory citizens, precarious infrastructure systems (see the Nigerian fuel strike: http://edition.cnn.com/2015/05/25/world/nigeria-shutdown-petrol-subsidies/), resource and wealth inequality (see the Dumsor Report: http://citifmonline.com/2015/08/06/scientific-dumsor-report-see-which-areas-enjoy-or-suffer-most/#sthash.NjXFH1Gh.dpuf), and industrialisation within planetary boundaries. However, it is impractical to make singular recommendations about African urbanism when city practitioners in Arusha will be dealing with very different realities from those in Abidjan. More local urban metabolism studies would be invaluable. </p><p> </p><p>Global urbanisation trends suggest that African cities will house one billion new urbanites by 2050. To aid studies of sustainability or urban metabolism in African cities, it is vital to make a shift from discussing African urbanism as a collective event. The oft-quoted statistic that Africa is 40% urban (the world purportedly passed 50% urban in 2008) overlooks the fact that 17 of 54 African nations are over 50% urban, 9 of which are over 60% urban, and 4 of which are over 70% urban: the African urban future is here. Meeting it with new visions for the sounds and energies of these cities will make all the difference.</p><p><img src="/english/PublishingImages/Lists/dualnews/My%20Items%20View/urbanafrica-2010.jpg" alt="urbanafrica-2010.jpg" style="margin:5px;width:500px;height:546px;" /> </p>​
Matie Student experience at the 2nd Chicago Forum for Global Citieshttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=4021Matie Student experience at the 2nd Chicago Forum for Global CitiesUrban Modelling and Metabolism Assessment, School of Public Leadership, Centre for Complex Systems in Transition<p>​​​Excited Matie student, George Frederick (Rickus) Cronje is back from meeting global leaders at the Chicago Forum for Global Cities held on 1 – 3 June 2016 in Chicago, USA.</p><p>The conference brought together global leaders from business, education, culture and civics. Topics were addressed in the form of panel discussions where a variety of global cities were represented. The panel discussions were superbly moderated by Financial Times journalists and ranged from topics such as transportation hubs to cultural heritage, safety threats, inclusivity, disruptive technologies, climate change and many more. All panel discussions can be freely accessed online at: <a href="https://www.chicagoforum.org/videos/2016">https://www.chicagoforum.org/videos/2016</a></p><p>At the conference, 'I served as Stellenbosch University's representative and formed part of the Student Delegation. The Student Delegation consisted of 28 students from 21 different countries and I was the only African student', says Rickus.</p><p>An experience and food for thought that stood out for Rickus was his engagement with Claudio Orrego, Governor of the Metropolitan Region of Santiago, Chile. Claudio emphasised that 'if we want to decrease violence in cities we should invest in high quality infrastructure in the poorest communities of cities. We build social ghettos and then wonder why there is violence'. </p><p>Claudio's argument relates well with Rickus Master's research which is titled: <em>A Business Case for Renewable Energy Technology Leapfrogging in Informal Settlements</em>, supervised by Dr Josephine Kaviti Musango at School of Public Leadership and co-supervised by Imke de Kock at Industrial Engineering. His Masters study is part of urban Modelling and Metabolism Assessment (uMAMA – <a href="http://www.umama-africa.com/">www.umama-africa.com</a>),  a research team within the centre Complex Systems in Transitions (CST), which aims to engage with various stakeholders ranging from city planners, decision-makers, scholars and civil society in co-creating sustainable cities and communities. Rickus has a heart for community development and would like to use his new-found perspective in being a catalyst for change in underserved communities. </p><p>Rickus' nomination and selection to participate at the 2<sup>nd</sup> Chicago Forum on Global Cities came through the Postgraduate & International Office and School of Public Leadership.</p><p><br> </p><p><img alt="chicagoforumstudents.jpg" src="/english/PublishingImages/Lists/dualnews/My%20Items%20View/chicagoforumstudents.jpg" style="margin:5px;width:600px;height:337px;" /><br> </p>
uMAMA congratulates masters graduateshttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=4543uMAMA congratulates masters graduatesuMAMA<p>​On 7 December 2016, three uMAMA masters researchers successfully graduated with their degrees:</p><p>Reshmi Joseph Muringathuparambil (cum Laude), thesis title: <em>Typology of representative building desings within townships for energy efficiency in the City of Cape Town</em>;</p><p>Sumaya Mohamed (cum Laude), thesis title:  <em>Assessment of the City of Cape Town's energy efficiency programmes within its internal operations</em>; and </p><p>Ebenaezer Appies, thesis title: <em>Energy infrastructure transition in urban informal households in South Africa</em>.</p><p>We wish them success in all their future endeavours.</p><p><br></p><p><img src="/english/PublishingImages/Lists/dualnews/My%20Items%20View/Josephine%20and%20Reshmi.jpg" alt="Josephine and Reshmi.jpg" style="margin:5px;width:300px;height:534px;" /><br></p><p>Photo: Reshmi Muringathuparambil with her Supervisor, Prof Josephine Kaviti Musango</p>
uMAMA researchers participate at International Renewable Energy Conferencehttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=4442uMAMA researchers participate at International Renewable Energy ConferenceDr Josephine Musango<p>On 26 – 28 October, uMAMA Research Group Leader, Dr Josephine Musango and PhD researcher, Suzanne Smit, participated at the International Renewable Energy Conference held in Gaborone, Botswana. </p><p>A paper titled, '<em>an investigation into energy flows in urban slums in an African context</em>' was presented, which is also co-authored with Dr Zora Kovacic and Professor Alan Brent of Industrial Engineering and uMAMA Research Group co-Leader. The paper argues that we need to understand<em> </em>the <strong>material reality</strong> of slums and their role as <strong>complex subsystems</strong> that affect and are affected by the wider urban system. Furthermore, we need to challenge our conceptions and assumptions about slums and their inhabitants and engage in real world, bottom-up research that portrays the material reality of these spaces if we ever want to provide affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.</p>