This was one of the conclusions that emerged from a discussion on African cities and climate change on Friday. The dialogue was part of a two day conference of mayors of African capital cities being hosted by UN-HABITAT in Nairobi, Kenya.
Adam Kimbisa, the mayor of Tanzania's capital, Dar es Salaam, observed that a continent that contributes relatively little to climate change was suffering severely because of it. 'Climate change did not start yesterday, and not in Africa. It started years ago, somewhere else' said Kimbisa, in reference to Europe's 18th century Industrial Revolution.
Concern over climate change was expressed most vocally by the mayors of coastal cities such as Dar es Salaam, Moroni and Banjul, and small island states such as Comoros and Seychelles. Marie-Antoinette Alexis, the mayor of Seychelles capital Victoria, remarked:
'All countries must work together to combat climate change. In the Seychelles, our 116 islands are on the front line. We can lose our beaches, our tourism, our land and our way of life, if something is not done quickly.'
Adding to Alexis' concerns Samba Faal, the mayor of Banjul, capital of Gambia, observed that a one metre rise in sea level near his city would result in a fifty percent loss in landmass coverage. Since most of Banjul is one metre below sea level, such a scenario would pose a serious threat to human settlements, health and food security
Still, the negative impact of climate change is not confined to seaside cities. Mahamat Zène Bada, the mayor of Chad's capital N'djamena, noted that irregular rainfall patterns and deforestation in and around the city had led to major flooding in 1999, 2001 and 2008. The city is flanked by two rivers and most people rely on wood products for energy, which causes the deforestation.
Climate change is one of many problems afflicting African cities, emphasised Adam Kimbisa mayor of Dar es Salaam. In his address he spoke about the problems all African cities face. He said, 'Our cities cannot cope with five to six percent population growth. We can't cope in education, housing, health or water. Our cities are overwhelmed.'