To move towards success and progress on Sustainable Development Goal 11, cities in Africa will have to deal with multi-dimensional aspects of urban development. Linking SDG’s, Climate Change Agreement and Sendai Framework for Disasters Risk reduction, cities in Africa will have to leapfrog to sustainability. Characterized largely as informal, leapfrogging may have to build on the informality foundation with diverse social, economic, physical and infrastructure systems that may offer some possibilities. In African cities, planning for better services, infrastructure housing and for fragmented and ‘runaway’ development remains daunting. Spatial plans have largely remained at strategic level with a disjuncture between envisaged plans and actual developments.
The coupling of multiple challenges has rendered contemporary planning difficult resulting into the continued organic development of cities with diverse infrastructure and services that contrast the centralized systems. If the ‘informal’ is considered as the ‘city’, this perspective may offer several possibilities. From housing, diverse infrastructure, innovative livelihood activities, patterns of growth and sprawl, economy, labor market, industrious innovativeness and social differentiation, these ‘informal’ settlements are not only the largest in many cities of Africa but have offered careers and lifetime experiences of many people in Africa.
Often measured by the proportion of people living in these settlements and infrastructure access such as water, sanitation and waste management, spatial planning has tended to envisage a city with symbolic architecture, infrastructure systems and an economy based on formal employment. There is a counter-argument that informal is the city because the informal has demonstrated sustaining of livelihoods, provided diverse opportunities and challenges that create compelling reasons to rethink the city in sub Saharan Africa. The issue is how to harness the potential in informality for the ‘new urban agenda’.