In 2011, the Siemens African Green City Index, conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit evaluated 15 African cities and their efforts to build an eco-conscious system. The cities were evaluated based on eight environmental criteria: energy and CO2, land use, transport, waste, water, sanitation, air quality, and environmental governance. The results showed that none of the cities achieved the top rating of ‘well above average’, indicating that even the most environmentally friendly cities in Africa could do better. Most of the cities with the highest scores were from South Africa and North Africa, with Accra, the capital of Ghana, being the only exception in sub-Saharan Africa.

Today African cities are increasingly embracing sustainability as they face the environmental challenges of urbanization. Currently, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities, and this figure is projected to increase to 68 percent by 2050. This implies that billions of people will affect the planet’s resources and ecosystems. Hence, it has become essential for more countries to adopt sustainable and ecological practices in urban areas, and more African countries are committing to reducing their carbon footprint.

Arcadis, a global company that provides sustainable design, engineering, and consultancy solutions for natural and built assets, ranked the top 100 green cities in the world, and six African cities made the list. These cities excel in areas such as energy efficiency, mobility, waste management, access to drinking water, protection of biodiversity, and technological innovations.

Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, and Pretoria, South Africa 

Cape Town stands out as Africa’s greenest city, boasting numerous nature reserves, a captivating coastline, and an efficient public transport system. The city’s dedicated energy and climate change unit aims to provide affordable and secure energy access while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the use of renewables in its energy mix. The city is also preparing its power grid for a surge in electric vehicle use and exploring the production and use of biofuels in transport. These four cities are listed as “green above average” according to the Africa Green City Index. Durban scored well on transport, waste, water, and sanitation; and Pretoria scored well on land use, transport, water, and air quality.

Cocody, Ivory Coast

Cocody, a rapidly developing city, has committed to a 70 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 through its Green City Plan. This ambitious plan aims to minimize local greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90 percent, generate hundreds of thousands of jobs, and promote sustainable lifestyles among citizens. The plan also involves investing in renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, biomass, and hydroelectric power. One of the key components of the plan is the Reforestation and Carbon Sequestration Program, which aims to develop green spaces and restore and replant two million mangrove trees to protect local climate health. These renewable energy sources will account for 80 percent of the city’s electricity supply by 2030. Cocody is also enhancing its water security, by installing rainwater harvesting systems, improving water distribution networks, and promoting water conservation practices.

Cairo, Egypt

Cairo, one of the top 100 green cities globally in 2022 per Arcadis, stands out for its robust public transport network. One of the factors that contributed to its high ranking is the high level of public transport accessibility in the city. Cairo has a metro system that serves about four million passengers per day, as well as buses, taxis, and microbuses. Cairo also has plans to expand its metro network and introduce electric buses and trams. The city boasts low per capita energy consumption at 1.6 megawatt-hours (MWh) annually, compared to the global average of 3.1 MWh. About 20 percent of its electricity is sourced from hydroelectric power. Cairo’s indicators of sustainability are evident socially, environmentally, and, economically.

Nairobi, Kenya

Nairobi is known as the “green city in the sun” and the “safari capital of the world” for its unique mix of rainforest and savannah grasslands that host a rich biodiversity. The city promotes renewable energy through initiatives like solar lamp posts, solar power kits for households, and efficient cooking stoves, and supporting the development of geothermal power plants. The city also has several parks and open green spaces, such as Uhuru Park, City Park, Nairobi Mamba Village, and Jeevanjee Gardens. In 2020 Nairobi ranked 14 out of 40 on the Tourlane green city list.


While not a city, Rwanda is actively pursuing sustainability. With an aim to have 35 percent of its population living in cities by 2024, Rwanda is building the first green city on the continent. The green city will feature affordable housing, renewable energy, sustainable transport, waste management, water conservation, biodiversity protection, and green governance. Rwanda is a leader in promoting renewable energy sources, such as solar, hydro, biogas, and geothermal, to increase its energy security and reduce its carbon footprint. Rwanda has increased its electricity access rate from 10 percent in 2010 to 60 percent in 2020, with 51 percent from on-grid connections and nine percent from off-grid solutions. Rwanda aims to achieve universal access to electricity by 2024, with at least 48 percent from renewable sources.

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