Climate change remains the biggest threat to the built environment and Future of Africa’s cities

By Mourice Seretta

Climate change is the biggest threat to the future of African cities, according to Knight Frank’s Africa Horizons Report 2021/22. The report states that African cities are getting warmer and extreme weather changes are going to have a direct impact of the environment within cities and increase the move towards urban migration.

The most affected areas are expected in the Central and Southern parts of Africa including the capitals of Lilongwe and Lusaka. This prediction is based on the firm’s modelling of Geographical information systems data using the Köppen Geiger climate change predictions for 2050.

The model illustrates that climate change will impact African cities in two different ways. Firstly, a combination of the urban heat island effect resultant from the impact of ongoing human activities on the urban environment leading to higher temperatures in urban areas compared to rural areas combined with global warming will have a direct impact on the environment within cities.

Secondly, extreme weather changes in rural areas are anticipated to have an impact on agriculture as the main source of livelihood, ultimately driving more people to cities. This is mainly anticipated to take place across West Africa in countries such as Togo, Nigeria and Cameroon.

Tilda Mwai, Knight Frank Researcher for Africa notes, “Like many crises before, Covid-19 is likely to inspire an evolution. Fixing the city is anticipated to be the most urgent post-Covid challenge. While there is no simple solution to climate change itself, it is the built environment that poses the greatest challenge to climate change.”

The Africa Horizons Report 2021/22 also highlights themes such as Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) as a factor that will continue to take centre stage for property investors across the continent.

Anthony Duggan the Head of Global Capital Markets research states that, “this rapid shift in perspective around ESG factors has resulted in property investors now having an additional set of criteria to consider when buying, selling or redeveloping assets. Appraisals and valuations will increasingly be looking across factors such as the performance of the physical asset itself, the locational risk of where the asset is located and, increasingly, an understanding and measure of the tenant counterparty risk. Collectively this risk assessment is referred to as Climate Value at Risk (VaR)”

The built environment landscape across Africa is therefore set to change, adapting to the local needs for real estate with a greater emphasis on sustainability underpinned by increasing urbanisation and rising population.

There are currently approximately 700 certified green buildings in hotspots across the continent with the most dominant rating tools being the Green Star (GBCSA), LEED (USGBC) and EDGE (IFC).

While South Africa continues to account for more than three quarters of these buildings, rapid green growth has been witnessed across the continent underpinned by a range of factors.

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