Wote Town, Kenya 2 December 2022-- Cities in Kenya and across Africa are experiencing and will continue to experience severe effects of climate change and there is need to build their resilience to protect their populations and assets, the Director of UN-Habitat’s Regional Office for Africa Oumar Sylla has said.

Mr. Sylla who was speaking at Kenya’s seventh devolution conference added that there was an important opportunity to shape the Kenyan cities of the 21st century as low-carbon, resilient and liveable places.

Kenya adopted a new constitution in 2010 that adopted devolution as a form of governance. Under this, the central government ceded administration of most roles to the devolved units called counties, each with regional legislative assemblies under a governor.

Each year, the governors and national government officials converge for the devolution conference to review their performance. The theme for this year’s conference that was officially opened by President Uhuru Kenyatta was ‘Multi – level governance for climate action’.

President Kenyatta said climate change was not a future problem but a present and serious threat to all countries across the world.  The head of state stressed that climate change posed an existential threat to Kenya even though the country’s role in precipitating the problem was negligible as Kenya contributed less than 1% of current global greenhouse gas emissions. 

“To understand the gravity of the climate change threat, consider these numbers: Globally, Kenya is ranked as the 31st most vulnerable country to climate change. Climate change impacts lead to a loss of about 3% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually.

In the last two years, we witnessed the worst locust outbreak in 25 years, which left about one million people food-insecure in the Horn of Africa. And as we meet here today, about 2.5 million people in 23 counties, are facing famine because of drought.”

In his speech, Mr. Sylla said the current levels of climate finance in Africa were insufficient to meet the needs to mitigate and adapt to climate change. He added that investing in climate could help drive green urban economic recovery from COVID-19 and facilitate the transition to carbon neutral cities in Kenya.

“Climate action requires well defined and designed interventions, which are ‘bankable’ to their fullest. Achieving this is already a challenge in many African cities. Often, proposed projects for resilient infrastructure and urban development in cities do not get implemented because local institutions do not have the capacity to develop projects that prove feasibility and the generation of returns on investment,” he said.

The Director reiterated that supporting cities to be capable of financing local climate action was where the international community and peer support was most critical, an idea he said was strongly supported and promoted by UN-Habitat.

“Most of such investments call for public sector involvement and financing, and UN-Habitat – through the Cities Investment Facility – is supporting over a dozen national governments to access climate finance to fund critical resilience building and adaptation infrastructure, including the Kisumu City Lakefront Development Initiative,” he said

UN-Habitat prepared the Lakefront Development Advisory Plan and further analysed legislation and overall economic feasibility of the areas in Kenya’s third city of Kisumu. UN-Habitat also proposed the formation of Lakefront Development Corporation, a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) that would promote public and private sector investment and development of the lakefront.

Mr. Sylla disclosed that in Kenya, UN-Habitat and UNEP were also implementing the groundbreaking Go Blue project, a 28 million USD four-year programme funded by the European Union to harness important coastal and marine resources to achieve a sustainable blue economy and bring jobs to over 3,000 youth and women.