Risk Informed Urban Development in Sub-Saharan Africa

About the activitities of the joint working group of Connective Cities and the Global Initiative on Disaster Risk Management

This working group is a joint initiative between the GIZ’s cooperation programs Connective Cities (which aims to create a platform for urban practitioners globally, to exchange on good practices for sustainable urban developments) and the program, Global Initiative on Disaster Risk Management (that aims to mainstream risk informed development, working in the regions of Latin America in cooperation with REDSNIP, Asia with the CDRI and Southern Africa with the SADC), who are also the main focus of the current phase of this working group.

The complex nature of risks, ambiguity and uncertainties in this context must be integrated in planning and financing processes of various sectors. Therefore, competences and institutional capacities of decision-makers need to be strengthened towards risks informed development. The Global Initiative on Disaster Risk Management (GIDRM) and the Connective Cities GIZ cooperation programs have called and established on the occasion of the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction #DRRday (13.10), the working group on “Risk Informed Urban Development” (RIUD).

The objective of the Working Group on Risk Informed Urban Development is in contributing to the identification of project ideas for early-stage technical assistance on risk informed urban development and climate change adaptation, with a context specific to southern Africa.

Through the exchange amongst the WG-RIUD members, the aim is to develop scalable and replicable solutions on risk informed urban development, foster discussion, and peer to peer exchange amongst German and southern African cities, creating a network of experts and practitioners that addresses flooding and extreme rainfall events, water and wastewater management and adaptation to climate vulnerabilities, ultimately to build up resilience and risk governance within the region.

Extreme rainfall and flooding are hazards that plagues most cities within southern Africa , therefore have been chosen as the sparking hazards to unfold a focused discussion towards addressing the possible solutions. However, the emphasis is placed on the multiple hazards that are associated with rainfall and flooding, and the systemic and cascading nature of hazards, rather than simply flooding or extreme rainfall events themselves.

The intended outputs from the WG-RIUD are to:

  • Foster peer to peer exchange amongst the members of the working groups and to gain valuable insights on good practices of risk informed development, which can be implemented in the urban fabric of our member cities.
  • This working group also presents itself as a valuable network, in which member cities have access to various experts, agencies and networks on RID.
  • Library of tools, methods, guidelines, codes and/or documents as reference, documents for good and practical risk informed urban development practice will also be created.
  • Through the exchanges of the working group, we aim to inspire our member cities to submit a project funding proposal to the City Climate Finance Gap Fund.
  • Develop evidence-based arguments for crafting messages to encourage RIUD and disaster risk management in cities.
  • Network with other relevant local authorities and exchange experiences on coordination with different administrative units and levels, as well as challenges for the implementation of Risk Informed Urban Development.
  • Ease in obtaining certificate of commitment to DRR and Resilience by UNDRR.
  • Gain deeper insight into the New Leipzig Charter (2020) and contemporary urban development policy throughout Germany and Europe

Structure of the WG-RIUD

The WG-RIUD is made of representatives from 14 countries, 21 cities and includes a great diversity from sectors like infrastructure, spatial planning, urban development and public works; energy and climate change; environment; urban and rural development; housing; legislation and policy making; finance and administration; information and communication technology; education and training; municipal associations; disaster risk management, civil security, fire brigade and rescue services. Aiming at a balanced representation of gender, the WG-RIUD is made 36% by female and 64 % male.

Central to the motion is the core working group itself. The working group consists of:

  • Cities from (southern) Africa and Germany, which are Bloemfontein (SA), Bonn (DE), Cape Town (SA), Chililabombwe (ZA), Dortmund (DE), Durban (SA), Gaborone (BW), Kinshasa (DRC), Kisumu (KE), Lusaka (ZA), Manzini (EW), Marromeu (MZ), Maseru (LS), Mbabane (EW), Mbombela (SA), Orangjemund (NA), Pretoria (SA), Quelimane (MZ), Windhoek (NA) and Zomba (MA).
  • The University of Free state in Bloemfontein’s Disaster Management Training and Education Center for Africa, providing their expertise on risk informed development and allowing opportunities for applied research that specifically addresses the gaps and needs of the working group member cities.
  • The SADC’s Disaster Risk Reduction Unit, who hold a more passive role. The results from the exchange and discussions carried out by the working group will be put to consideration to the DRR unit of the SADC, as for trickling these results down to the member states and the local level, as a redundancy and as for ensuring that the results can be also assimilated from the national to the local levels, the DRR focal points to the SADC are key stakeholders throughout the process of the working group.

Four member cities from South Africa

Common risk-based decision frameworks

The exchange and discussions carried out by the working group was moderated along the structure of the “Risk based decision frameworks”. These frameworks act as roadmaps which guide decision makers in understanding multiple threats, the multifaceted and complex nature of risk and opportunities to and arising from development decisions.

There are many “Risk-based decision frameworks”, published from institutes and agencies such as International Risk Governance Council, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, and Climate Risk Institute. Although each framework is unique, collectively they share common themes and phases. The framework which is  used for the moderated exchange of the working group is based on the common phases which include:

Scoping – Identification of critical stakeholders, capacities, and existing legal and institutional frameworks.


Risk appraisal – Identification and estimation of risks.


Options appraisal – Screening of various developmental choices and evaluating the best way forward, against various criteria.

Monitoring and evaluation – Establishing a system to assess the performance of the developmental choice that will be implemented.

Communication and iteration – Improving transparency and regular communication among multiple stakeholders during decision making processes.


Insight Moments

In expanding the synergy with  the exchange platform of Connective Cities that seeks peer to peer learning from city to city and the global initiative that strengthens decision-makers in enabling Risk-informed development, the Insight Moments program has been established. Each Insight Moment aims to add further value to the exchange carried out by our working group, particularly in addressing the various gaps, constraints and difficulties expressed by member cities. In addition to providing public access to those information sessions for interested practitioners and experts beyond the identified members of the working RIUD working group.

The content of the Insight Moments is structured along the Making Cities Resilient 2030 framework (MCR2030) of the UNDRR. MCR2030 is a global, cross-stakeholder, and collaborative initiative, that provides technical knowledge, tools, learning networks and other resources necessary to improve local resilience. Its programmatic, flexible, and iterative approach is built around a clear three-stage “resilience roadmap” which supports cities on their journey to reduce risk and build resilience.

MCR2030 therefore contributes highly to achieving one of the main goals of the Connective Cities and the GIDRM joint initiative: mainstreaming RID in urban planning and decision making.

The aim of those Insight Moments was to timely complement the expertise of the WG-RIUD by addressing capacity gaps or presenting inspiring approaches for RIUD from different disciplines and fields of action. As such, they can be categorized under the MCR2030 3-stage resilience roadmap: they provided inputs on

A.) understanding Risk-informed urban Development,

B.) increasing capacity to carry out risk appraisals or

C.) implementation of Risk-informed development in cities.

The virtually held informative events served as an open forum for all interested parties on cross-cutting topics such as DRM, climate change adaptation, and sustainable urban development. Overall, 11 Insight Moment  took place, presented by experts and representatives from UNDP, UN-Habitat, UNOCHA, UNDRR, ADB, AIT, JRC, DiMSUR, DLR, DFZ, TUM and TUKöln.

The MCR2030 resilience roadmap consists of three stages that cities can join to gain support from various partners, entering depending on their already achieved outputs and committing to demonstrate progress. In accordance to the above mentioned roadmap, the insight moments were recorded and now publicly accessible in correspondence with each step. As shown in the overview below::

Stage A (Cities Know Better)

implies helping local governments gain a comprehensive understanding of resilience and risk reduction, which enables them to collaboratively develop a DRR strategy.


Stage B (Cities Plan Better)

focuses on risk analysis and assessment, to achieve better preparedness in terms of developing strategies and policies and improving DRR measures.


Stage C (Cities Implement Better)

is dedicated to better implementation of planned DRR and resilience actions. Ideally, cities succeed in embedding the pursuit of their resilience strategy throughout their entire local governance.



Further information:

To learn more about the Global Initiative on Disaster Risk Management, click here -https://www.gidrm.net/en

Join the Connective Cities Community Platform and get connected with urban practitioners across the world -



GIZ  Connective Cities (CC)

Ms. Ricarda Meissner, ricarda.meissner(at)giz.de

GIZ Global Initiative on Disaster Risk Management (GIDRM)

Dr. Karl-Heinz Gaudry, karl-heinzgaudrysada(at)giz.de