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Back | Programme Area: Environmental and Climate Justice

State of Resilience in Africa

  • Project from: 2021 to 2023

Resilience is essential for shock-proofing sustainable development in Africa. But the way resilience is viewed and measured falls short when faced with multiple risks and shocks – climate change risks, extreme events, insecurity, health pandemics – which affect not just individual sectors but whole systems. This project maps resilience, ways of measuring it, and ways forward in African contexts. The research findings will be useful to policy decision makers and civil society actors working on developing and tracking resilience, and will feed into the 2023 Africa Human Development Report on Resilience.

The Research Issue in Context

The severity and increased frequency of multiple risks and shocks, and their ability to simultaneously impact vulnerable systems, threaten to reverse progress towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. The Covid-19 pandemic, insecurity, climate change risks and extreme events, which in many contexts interact simultaneously, have pointed to limitations of the concept of resilience, and the tools that are used to track and measure it – their narrow scope; the complexity of shocks and of systems; the relationship between sustainable development and resilience; and the fact that the methodological approaches and tools used to track resilience are sector-specific and therefore ill-suited for understanding the dynamics of entire systems.

It is critical to begin addressing these shortcomings and gaps, because building and strengthening resilience has come to be seen as critical for shock-proofing achievements made in Africa towards the sustainable development and ensuring steady progress into the future.

Project Objectives, Approach and Methods

UNRISD is partnering with the UNDP Resilience Hub for Africa on this project, which will contribute to the delivery of its Resilience Offer for Africa. The Hub is designed to provide thought leadership on resilience building in Africa. This encompasses conceptual thinking on what resilience means within the African context, while considering the diverse political, social and economic landscapes that African countries present. It also includes the operationalization and the modelling of practical applications of resilience building in Africa to support risk-informed development.

Phase I (Nov 2021-Apr 2022) will deliver a mapping and conceptual state of the art paper on resilience in Africa, defining relevant dimensions of resilience and outlining how resilience manifests itself in Africa (based on desk research and initial consultations at the country and regional levels). A high-level dialogue with AU Member States will be held to inform and validate the conceptualization and inform Phase II of the project.

Phase II (Apr 2022-Feb 2023) will deliver a full-fledged concept of resilience in Africa, including a resilience profile that looks at key dimensions of resilience, and an overview of data and tools available to measure and track resilience. The work will build on Phase I and select case studies to conduct more in-depth country and community consultations. The analysis will inform the drafting of the Africa Human Development Report on Resilience (2023).

Project Beneficiaries

The overall aim is to support African Union Member states, UNDP Country Offices, development partners, and communities to define the system-based resilience concept, track achievements and gaps in the basic dimensions of resilience across Africa, and co-create knowledge that will contribute to the development of relevant policies and programmes. The outputs of the research will also be useful for CSOs and NGOs working on resilient development. The country- and community-level consultations, and review of existing data sources and gaps, will deliver valuable evidence and case studies that can inform future research and be used by researchers. Through the high-level dialogues and through engagement with research partners from different countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the project will foster knowledge exchange, promote interdisciplinary learning and generate capacity-building impacts.

Funding and Acknowledgements

The project is funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and carried out in partnership with the UNDP Resilience Hub for Africa.