The South African city has turned to the private sector for help with critical problems such as water shortages and congestion. Claire Manuel reports

Climate change is a reality for African cities, with sea-level rises and increased drought forcing municipalities to look for outside help to adapt. “Many African cities are exposed to sea-level rise and coastal surges because they lie in low river deltas and along the coast,” says Kate Owen, urban development manager at the World Resources Institute. “At the same time, most lack adequate drainage, sewage treatment, waste-collection and land-use planning that protects critical ecosystems. That makes these communities highly susceptible to the coming changes in climate, but also creates lock-in effects that are difficult to overcome.”

Cape Town is one of the fastest-growing cities in South Africa, with a population of 3.9 million. Most of its people are very poor and the city suffers high unemployment rates. Climate change presents a very real danger and the region is suffering an unprecedented drought. The city has been driving a water-demand management plan for a number of years, which has resulted in significant water savings, yet Cape Town is on the brink of a water catastrophe.

“We are in a real crisis,” Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille told Bloomberg at the C40’s Women4Climate conference in New York in March. She explained that...

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