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Understanding the Assessment and Reduction of Vulnerability to Climate Change in African Cities: A Focus on Low-Income and Informal Settlements

David Dodman


The impacts of climate change in urban Africa – and the efforts taken to address these impacts – will take place within a specific developmental context and in relation to existing efforts and programmes to support economic and social development. This paper examines the environmental, socio-economic, cultural, institutional and political factors that shape vulnerability to climate change in sub-Saharan African cities, with a particular focus on informal settlements, and describes the potential of and limits to using climatic data to help understand vulnerability in this context. Drawing on case studies in Ghana, Senegal and Uganda, it proposes a framework for analysing climate change-related vulnerability that is relevant for city authorities and for donor agencies when considering risk reduction, urban development, and infrastructure projects and programmes. The holistic conceptualisation of vulnerability that is described provides a basis for responses to climate change in African towns and centres that is better suited to addressing the needs of the large proportion of the continent’s urban residents living in low-income and informal settlements.

Publication information

  • External: X00132
  • Published: Dec 2014 - l’Agence Française de Développement (AFD)
  • Theme: Urban
  • Language: English

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