Romain  Leclercq

Urban Africa Risk Knowledge - International Conference

Intervention : Urban risks from below. A dwellers perspective on risk management in the suburbs of Ouagadougou, Dakar and Nouakchott

Lieu : Sunbird Capital Hotel, Lilongwe, Malawi

Date : Du 1er au 3 Février 2016

Organisateurs : King’s College London, Mzuzu University, DFID-ESRC

Auteurs : Leclercq Romain, Choplin Armelle, Guigma Léandre

Référence HAL-SHS :


How can cities in sub-Saharan Africa meet the demands of economic growth, poverty reduction and resilience ? Governments, development agencies and citizen’s groups in cities across Africa, and globally are recognising that existing urbanisation trajectories are both part of the solution and part of the problem for a sustainable and resilient future. Addressing this tension between risk and development requires better understanding of urban processes, improved data collection and support for city and neighbourhood capacities. Urban Africa : Risk Knowledge (Urban ARK) (funded by DFID-ESRC) is a three year programme of research and capacity building that aims to reduce disaster risk in urban sub-Saharan Africa by breaking cycles of risk accumulation and seeks to open up an applied research and policy agenda for risk management in Urban Africa. The programme responds to the urban resilience agenda by providing a focal point for knowledge generation, policy analysis and capacity building. Specific research and policy interventions include a focus on the interaction of poverty, conflict and environmental risk in shaping local resilience ; the strategic lessons for physical infrastructure that can be learned from multi-hazard relationships and climate change downscaling, and ; local to national governance processes and decisionmaking. The programme aims to describe the changing nature, scale and distribution of risk as a basis for projecting and anticipating future changes in risk so that city governments – and the local communities and civil society organisations they do or could work with – can more effectively reduce risk and manage uncertainty.
See the blog :

The Urban ARK Programme is hosting an international conference in Lilongwe, Malawi 1-3 February 2016. This will be a major international event and one that seeks to make a solid contribution to providing a science base for urban risk management policy in sub-Saharan Africa. Given the calls for evidence based policy emanating from the SDGs and Sendai Framework the need for a critical view of science knowledge and capacity in the region on this topic is clear. The conference brings together urban researchers and practitioners engaged in African disaster risk reduction and management. The aim of the event is to help frame the Urban ARK research and capacity building programme. Urban ARK aims to generate data, understanding and support local capacity and international advocacy for urban DRR in Africa. Our focus is on challenging those processes part of Africa’s urbanisation trends that lead to risk accumulation. The conference is supported by DFID-ESRC and will be hosted by Mzuzu University - a core Urban ARK Partner.

Paper summary : Urban risks from below. A dwellers perspective on risk management in the suburbs of Ouagadougou, Dakar and Nouakchott

Recent researches in geography and sociology of the urban risks usually insist on the importance of understanding this concept through the dwellers apprehension of these threats. Urban dwellers deploy a wide array of resistances and resilience against the risks in their own neighbourhoods. Considering their local and everyday experiences against risks, urban dwellers could be considered as actors that should be involved in the urban risks management policies. Otherwise, these policies might fail or produce other forms of risks. In this perspective, our paper will focus on the way urban dwellers try to mitigate flooding threats in three West African cities : Dakar, Nouakchott and Ouagadougou. The paper aims to understand how they mobilise, how the stakeholders take in consideration their reactions and how they draw some inclusive ways to address the urban risk management. Located in the Sahelian zone, the cities of Dakar, Nouakchott and Ouagadougou have recently experiencing new flooding risks, directly linked to informal urban sprawl and climate change. This perception of the flooding risk is new for the population who, in this part of Africa, is more familiar with the drought risks. The paper will highlight that in the three different contexts, a new urban risk management is under construction.

The first example will focus on a dwellers mobilisation against the flooding risks in an informal neighbourhood of the suburbs of Dakar. We will see how these inhabitants, helped by some NGOs, succeeded to seize their neighbourhood experiences, via a community planning method, in order to find some solutions to address the flooding and the eviction threats and to be partially incorporated to the urban policies.
The second example shows how the notion of urban risk is exploited by some dwellers with authorities, in order to benefit from a better land status or distributions of various kinds in Ouagadougou, specifically in the informal settlement of Bissighin. This pilot-neighborhood of Participatory Slum Upgrading Program implemented by UN-Habitat was partly flooded in September 2009 and in August 2014. We will see how the risk of this instrumentalization of urban risk by residents influences policy choices programming and implementation of national adaptation plan to climate change in urban areas, adopted in 2013 by the Burkinabe authorities.
The third example focuses on Mauritanian institutions which are learning how to systematically adapt to climate change and mitigate the flooding risks in Nouakchott. We will analyse the GIZ project called “Protecting the city of Nouakchott from the impacts of climate change” and its impacts. This project aims to consolidate existing knowledge on risks, to develop an information system (AdaptNKC) to improve decision-making. The project also tries to involve dwellers through a participatory photographic and cartographic initiative to collect concrete experiences in tackling floodings.