Cities Solve, Cities Deliver | How cities are transforming water challenges into resilience building opportunities in Africa

Written by Resilient Cities Network
Thursday, 16 March 2023

The Cities Solve, Cities Deliver campaign is showcasing inspirational game-changing water resilience initiatives in cities in the lead-up, during, and after the UN 2023 Water Conference. Our water resilience journey travels through Europe and the Middle East, Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, and North America. 

Scroll down to read more about the initiatives cities in Africa are working on to transform their water threats into opportunities for building a more resilient future for the city and its communities.

Addis Ababa

Addis Ababa needed more water and sanitation systems to enhance the resilience of internally displaced people and refugees living in underserved settlements—this was even more evident and pressing with the pandemic. Fighting COVID-19 or other hazards without proper sanitation and water supply is unthinkable.

This was the reality in the Akaki Kaliti sub-city, where a high percentage of the population is internally displaced. Aware of the risk and including the internally displaced communities in the planning process, the local government responded quickly by building sewer lines that connect the sub-city to the main sewer line.

With this #WaterAction, Addis Ababa gave access to clean drinking water to 600 households, improving the community’s hygiene and health, enhancing collaboration and preparing them to be more resilient to future shocks.

This initiative is part of the city’s overall work to build water resilience. The city has worked with R-Cities, WRI and other partners to establish an action plan for ambitious, accountable, and coordinated action to ensure urban water resilience impact at scale and is currently pushing for its implementation.

Cape Town

The world’s 1st major city to run out of water. That was the destination where Cape Town was heading in 2017. The day zero crisis, as Capetonians call it, came after a multi-year drought. This existential moment brought every sector in the city together to power through the drought—from households to industries.

Located in an increasingly dry part of the world, highly affected by the changing climate, Cape Town is aware that its water supply is still under threat—as droughts intensify.

Capetonians are building a new relationship with water and building resilience to withstand future challenges by transforming water supply threats into opportunities to preserve water and biodiversity and economically benefit communities. Part of this extensive work is the Liveable Urban Waterways programme, initiated in 2018.

Previously unlivable local water corridors are becoming green-blue corridors that connect communities and ecosystems. The monitoring framework of the program is a game-changer that ensures one intervention has societal, environmental and economic benefits with six liveable waterway assessment benchmarks. The program also integrates water-sensitive design, waterway rehabilitation, nature-based solutions, and investment in green infrastructure.


Approximately 5,620 residents (1405 households) will have a better quality of life in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda—with access to safe, reliable, and affordable drinking water and backup supplies in case of water cuts & emergencies.

An underground reservoir to collect rainwater built with its tank, filtration system, hybrid solar pumping system, and the installation of 2 smart waste facilities translates to 1405 households being able to directly use alternative water sources to flush their toilets, separate waste, and meet their daily water needs—reducing residents’ dependency on commercial water and decreasing water bills from $ 12.6/month to $4.4/month.

Inadequate WASH service delivery systems were one of the stresses exacerbated by the pandemic. Kigali acted quickly to enhance community and water resilience and ensure a green recovery.

By planning and implementing with equity, Kigali transformed a water supply threat into an opportunity to build stronger, safer, and healthier communities and implement green and sustainable solutions to build a more resilient future.

Thanks to this initiative, Kigali was a winner of Bloomberg’s Global Mayors Challenge, a worldwide innovation competition that recognized cities for designing the boldest and most ambitious urban innovations to emerge from the global COVID-19 pandemic.

This initiative is also part of the city’s overall work to build water resilience. Kigali is working with R-Cities, WRI, and other partners to establish a framework for ambitious, accountable, and coordinated action to ensure urban water resilience impact at scale.


Johannesburg provides water and sanitation services to approximately 5.8 million people. But the city is facing increasing water security and resilience challenges as a result of growing demand, aging water infrastructure, informal development, and climate change related impacts.

To transform these challenges into opportunities to build water resilience, the city is bringing together stakeholders and communities to understand their challenges and its impacts, and co-create a pathway to provide access to water for all.

Simultaneously, this enables social cohesion and empowers communities to take ownership of the planning and implementation process.

This work is part of the Urban Water Resilience Initiative, led by the World Resources Institute (WRI) in partnership with R-Cities and other global partners. Together we work with leaders in Africa to identify the shocks and stresses threatening their cities’ water systems, prioritizing resilient solutions in future plans.


Gqeberha, South Africa’s second-largest metropolitan district, faces a severe ongoing drought, leaving the city at risk of a “Day Zero,” when supplies literally run dry.

To face these challenges, city stakeholders and leaders came together to develop the Water Resilience Profile and Action Plan. It identifies strategic intervention areas and solutions to secure investments and a sustainable water supply. Some examples include designing a city-wide plan for nature-based solutions to water and heat challenges and boosting peer learning with other African cities.

Through this crowd-sourced approach to building the water resilience profile and action plan, Gqeberha strives to protect and meet the needs of the city’s growing informal settlements, strengthen disaster preparedness, curb pollution and improve water stewardship across the Eastern Cape catchment.

This work is part of the Urban Water Resilience Initiative, led by the World Resources Institute (WRI) in partnership with R-Cities and other global partners.

Cities Solve, Cities Deliver

Join us in showcasing how cities contribute to water resilience globally and inspire other cities around the world. Share a water resilience initiative your city is currently developing or implementing to turn water from a threat into an opportunity.

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