Stellenbosch Univeristy Contributes to Science Leadership in African CIties

Since 2015, the Urban Modelling and Metabolism Assessment (uMAMA) research team at the School of Public Leadership has been undertaking game-changing and exciting research aimed at tracking urban resource flows and thereby shaping African cities.



Currently, there is lack of data-supported decision-making in urban planning, which undermines the building of sustainable communities and cities, particularly in the face of a rapidly urbanising Africa. To alleviate the lack of data, uMAMA is providing empirical cases of the metabolism of African cities. This it does by using a suite of innovative approaches that promotes bottom-up data collection through engagement with communities. And it is from this empirical evidence that it is developing theory specific to African cities.

One of uMAMA’s collaborative research projects is entitled
Co-designing energy communities with energy poor women in urban areas: Case studies in Kenya, Uganda and South Africa (CoDEC) ( This project is one of nine awarded in 2017 by the Leading Integrated Research for Agenda 2030 (LIRA2030) in Africa programme. The project draws expertise from three African transdisciplinary research teams: the Living Lab ( at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, led by Dr Amollo Ambole; the Urban Action Lab ( at Makerere University in Uganda, led by Dr Kareem Buyana; and uMAMA ( here at Stellenbosch University (SU), led by Prof Josephine Musango. The teams have extensive experience in and knowledge of systems thinking and systems dynamics in Africa, energy metabolism in African cities, sustainable energy, design, social innovation, social governance, the energy-gender-health nexus and informal urban environments.

The objective of the CoDEC project is to provide integrated solutions to the energy challenges of households in informal urban settlements. To achieve this objective, studies were undertaken in two informal urban settlements ˗ Mathare in Nairobi, Kenya, and Kasubi-Kawaala in Kampala, Uganda ˗ and the findings of these studies were compared to research findings from Enkanini in Stellenbosch. All the studies engaged the stakeholders (the settlement dwellers themselves), experts and policy actors. Knowledge will now be co-produced and gender-responsive options for improved household energy service provision will be co-designed. This will be able to contribute to improved policies. It will also be able to contribute to the realisation of the national energy goals of the three countries and to some of the international Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): good health and wellbeing (SDG3); gender equality (SDG5); affordable and clean energy (SDG7); and sustainable cities and communities (SDG11).

The first regional workshop of CoDEC was held in Nairobi from 9 to 11 April 2018. Forty participants were brought together, comprising the three teams, experts and policy actors from the Ministry of Energy in Kenya and the Kenya Power and Lighting Company, community members from Mathare, and funding representatives from LIRA and the International Development Research Centre. The uMAMA participants were Prof Musango, Ms Suzanne Smit (a PhD researcher) and Dr Zora Kovacic (a postdoctoral fellow joining the team in May 2018).
There was opportunity for in-depth discussion among the project partners and the team participants on the project’s scientific, policy and societal relevance to the energy-gender-health nexus and for a visit to Mathare.

One of the key achievements by CoDEC during its first year of research was surveying 300 households in Kenya, Uganda and South Africa (using the Multiscale Integrated Assessment of Societal and Ecosystem Metabolism framework); another was the participatory mapping of energy sources in relation to work and other amenities in Mathare and Kasubi-Kawaala. Presentations were made at the International Council for Science in Taipei, the Nigeria Academy of Sciences in Abuja, the Nordic Africa Institute in Uppsala and the NEXUS conference in North Carolina. An article was also published in
Geoforum, entitled Setting the scene for energy metabolism assessment of Nairobi city county.


uMAMA Post-doctoral Fellow receives a prestigious award!

On 18 May 2018, Dr Zora Kovacic received the Extraordinary Doctoral Award from the Autonomous University of Barcelona, for her PhD dissertation on the use of complexity theory for the quality assessment of the use of scientific information for sustainability governance.

uMAMA congratulates Dr Kovacic for her prestigious award!

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Photo: Zora Kovacic at the Awards Ceremony

uMAMA Welcomes Dr Zora Kovacic

On May 1st, 2018, Dr Zora Kovacic joined uMAMA research team. Dr Kovacic studies how scientific information is used in sustainability governance, and how issues of complexity and uncertainty are handled at the science-policy interface. She holds a PhD from the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Environmental Science and Technology, a BSc from the Technical University of Harburg-Hamburg and the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Ecological Economics, and a BA from the School of Oriental and African Studies in Economics and Development Studies. 
Dr Kovacic is currently involved in a collaborative research project, Co-designing Energy Communities with Urban Poor Women (CODEC -, between University of Nairobi, University of Makerere and Stellenbosch University. Within the project, she will develop a comparative study of informal urban settlements in South Africa, Kenya and Uganda from the perspective of societal metabolism, and she will study the policy challenges of governing informal settlements. 

Photo 1 - Zora at CODEC

uMAMA researcher wins award at the First Symposium of International Network of Michelin cities, at Clermont-Ferrand University, France

Benjamin Batinge, a doctoral candidate of Stellenbosch University and a member of the urban Modelling and Metabolism Assessment (uMAMA) Research Team attended the First Symposium of International Network of Michelin cities in 2017, to share his latest research: “Implications of urbanization in sub-Saharan African cities on sustainable energy access”. The paper, co-authored by Mr Batinge and his PhD advisors; Prof. Musango and Prof. Brent, examines the state of African cities by 2030 and the implications of rapid urbanization in cities on sustainable energy access. The study used four African cities namely Lagos – Nigeria, Addis Ababa – Ethiopia, Dar es Salaam – Tanzania, and Kinshasa – Democratic Republic of Congo. Mr. Batinge was awarded the 2017 Jean Monet prize for an original work by a young researcher.

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Mr. Batinge received the Jean Monnet Young Researcher prize for original work at City Hall – Clermont-Ferrand.

The prize for senior researcher was awarded to Paul James from University of Western Sydney, Australia for his work: “Alternative Paradigms for Sustainability: Decentring the Human without Becoming Posthuman”.

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Prof. Paul James and Mr. Benjamin received the Jean Monet prizes at City Hall – Clermont-Ferrand

The symposium, which took place between the 27th of November and 1ST December 2017, brought together stakeholders from academia industry and local government authorities including mayors from major cities in Europe, to deliberates on the challenges presented by the increasing size of the cities, the amount of resources required and the complexity of modern society.
The key speakers at the symposium were Maja Göpel from Wuppertal Institute in Germany, Paul James from University of Western Sydney, Australia, and Aleix Altimiras Martin, Universidad Estadual de Campinas, Brazil. They gave lectures and presented papers pertaining to environment and climate change, sustainability and resilience of cities, and urbanisation and resource flows. The papers presented at the conference will be published as chapters in a book forthcoming in June 2018 titled: “Sustainable Cities”.

The conference was organized in sessions themed: Sustainable Cities, Concepts and Methodology, Environment and Sustainable Cities, Social and sustainable Cities, Energy and Smart Cities. There were also round table discussions with former deputies of the European parliament; Ilona Graenitz, Zofija Mazek Kukovic, Danielle Auroi, and Jean Paul Besset on the topic “Europe and Sustainable Development”.

Conference reflections on Singapore

André Troost, who recently graduated from the MPhil (Sustainable Development) programme cum laude, presented his masters research at the International Conference on Green Energy and Applications in Singapore from 24 to 26 March 2018, hosted by Nanyang Technological University and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. André's research was concerned with the potential of strategic investment to increase access to finance among mini-grid energy service companies in sub-Saharan Africa and was supervised by Prof. Josephine Kaviti Musango from the School of Public Leadership and Prof. Alan Brent from the Department of Industrial Engineering. The study recommends that mini-grid ESCOs should build competencies in customer relationship management and the extrapolation of rural electricity consumption and customer creditworthiness data towards commercial applications such as the sale of electricity dependent products and services, as it was found that potential strategic investors attach value to these indicators.