FRACTAL: Future Resilience for African Cities and Lands

Submitted by Anna Taylor | published 7th Oct 2015 | last updated 13th May 2019

FRACTAL overview

In the 21st century, addressing climate change necessarily includes building urban resilience by ensuring that people, infrastructure and economic activities are able to withstand and function well under a new set of conditions. Africa's future is dominated by a growing number of city residents. This creates complex climate risks and vulnerabilities, such as water scarcity, health threats, transport disruptions and electricity shortages, that connect cities with distant places they rely on (such as hydro-power plants in other districts or neighbouring countries). Climate change substantially complicates the development policy and planning landscape. These decision-making challenges are aggravated by the lack of scientific climate information that is readily accessible and applicable at the city regional scale.

FRACTAL (initiated in June 2015) is a 4-year project coordinated by the Climate Systems Analysis Group (CSAG) at the University of Cape Town. The overarching aim of the FRACTAL project is to advance scientific knowledge about regional climate responses to human activities (such as burning fossil fuels, changing land surface cover, etc.) and work with decision makers to integrate this scientific knowledge into climate-sensitive decisions at the city-regional scale (particularly decisions relating to water, energy and food with a lifetime of 5 to 40 years).

FRACTAL is designed to work across disciplines within the scientific community and foster strong collaboration between researchers, city government officials and other key decision makers in southern Africa. The FRACTAL project operates in Windhoek, Maputo, Lusaka, Cape Town, Durban, Blantyre, Gaborone and Harare.

During the first year of FRACTAL, important relationships have been established in each of the cities in which the project is working. Research and engagements have also been undertaken to contribute to objectives of FRACTAL. Team members have been challenging themselves to work in a transdisciplinary manner, learning many lessons along the way. On 24 June 2016, team members met to discuss this progress, share lessons learned and provide information about the plans for Year 2.

FRACTAL is funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) through the Future Climate for Africa (FCFA) program.

Project Partners

FRACTAL research consortium members:

FRACTAL city partners:

University of Cape Town: Climate System Analysis Group (CSAG), African Climate & Development Initiative (ACDI) and African Centre for Cities (ACC)

University of Zambia

Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) Oxford

Lusaka City Council

Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre

University of Namibia

ICLEI Local Government for Sustainability

City of Windhoek

Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)

Eduardo Mondlane University


Maputo Municipal Council

Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI)

City of Cape Town

Met. Office Hadley Centre

University of KwaZulu Natal


eThekwini Municipality

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Chinhoyi University of Technology

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

University of Botswana

European Commission (EC) Joint Research Centre

Malawi Polytechnic


News nuggets

FRACTAL seeks to constantly engage with relevant communities around the world on topics related to cutting-edge thinking on climate science, climate change adaptation and resilient development, particularly in the city-region context. For updates on FRACTAL-related activities and news, see below.

FRACTAL attendance at the Resilience Scoping Dialogue

Two FRACTAL representatives attended the Resilience Scoping Dialogue in stellenbsoch on 4 & 5 August 2016, organised by the Centre for Complex Systems in Transition (CST), in collaboration with Southern African Program on Ecosystem Change and Society (SAPECS) and the Stockholm Resilience Centre. The dialogue was organised around four key objectives: i) foster a deep understanding of resilience and resilience thinking; ii) explore and share how resilience ideas are being used in practice in Southern Africa; iii) scope the possibilities and needs for building a regional partnership on resilience thinking; and iv) develop an agenda for how resilience concepts and practices can be used towards realizing transformative sustainable development pathways in Africa. It is envisaged that the outcome of the two-day workshop will be the establishment of a “Complexity and Resilience Thinking Network” (name to be confirmed), which will serve as a platform for sustained engagement, sharing of resources and create future opportunities for training and supportive workshops to build and develop regional capacity to engage with and operationalize the notion of resilience.

Read a reflection from the colloquium through the CSAG blog here.

Development of the FRACTAL Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) framework

A working group has been developed within FRACTAL to develop a Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) framework. The main objectives of the framework are to enable reflection and learning within the consortium that allows for adaptive management on the pathways towards impact, and assess the overall progress of FRACTAL towards the overarching aims. This framework will be evolutionary as lessons that will be learned will be fed back into the MEL framework, overall project management and implementation of activities. The MEL framework will incorporate aspirations to capture learning at a city, project and broader (e.g. across FCFA consortia) scale. Furthermore, MEL activities will assess the level of transdisciplinarity within FRACTAL.

FRACTAL annual event

The FRACTAL annual event is set to take place on 2 & # November 2016 at Monkey Valley Resort, Noordhoek, Cape Town. Partners from around the world will gather to reflect on the progress of the project and plan for the coming year (2017). Importantly, FRACTAL is organising a joint learning session with Uncertainty reduction in Models For Understanding deveLopment Applications (UMFULA), another consortium within FCFA.