Half of the world's people live in cities. By 2050 – only 35 years from now – that number is expected to grow to 75 per cent.
All those people will need food, drink, toilets, water to wash, housing, jobs, schools, transportation, health services, law enforcement, green spaces and entertainment. All cities, but especially those on the coast – which is a majority of large cities across Africa – will have to cope with climate change and rising sea levels.
For understandable reasons, much of the conversation among development professionals, policy makers and civil society organizations about how to feed and nourish growing populations has focused on small farmers. Most Africans still live in rural areas, and small producers – primarily women – grow the food their families and communities eat.
But the impending urban explosion is underway, and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs says African cities are growing faster than those in any other region. Few cities are positioned to rise to the coming challenges.
The Rockefeller Foundation, in its centennial year, aims to stimulate both a vigorous discussion and innovative interventions to help cities face this inevitable future successfully. Among the strategies is giving cities an opportunity to apply for grants to make their cities more resilient. The deadline for registration to receive an application is 23 September.
Announcing the $100 million dollar programme, the Rockefeller Foundation said its "100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge will select one hundred cities across the globe, and through technical support and resources for developing and implementing plans for urban resilience, the Foundation will help cities leverage billions of additional dollars in infrastructure financing."
Making the business case for investing in resilience, Rockefeller President Judith Rodin wrote in the Guardian that "more people than ever are in the potential path of city-based catastrophes" and that "globalisation means that if one city is hit by a crisis, it's likely to affect residents of other cities thousands of miles away."
Fortunately, she said, resilience is a skill that can be learned. Cities can develop the capacity to "withstand, bounce back from, and emerge stronger from shocks and stresses." She called for public-private partnerships and innovative financing to provide the risk capital for cities to adapt in the ways that will be necessary. "That's good for businesses and citizens alike," she said, "and critical for the global wellbeing of humanity throughout the world."