ICSU, together with NASAC and the ISSC, will support 10 research projects across Africa. These projects are expected to generate new solutions-oriented knowledge that will help develop new urban paradigms in Africa and make African cities more resilient, adaptable and healthier. This is the first call in a five-year, 5 million Euro project that seeks to increase the production of high quality, integrated (inter- and transdisciplinary), solutions-oriented research on global sustainability by early career scientists in Africa.
In the last three decades, urbanization in China moved ahead at an unprecedented speed. Between 1978 and 2014, the urbanization rate increased from 17.9% to 53.7% (Chinese Government Network, 2015 [In Chinese]). During that time, more than five hundred million people moved from rural areas into cities. Rapid urbanization, along with industrialization, has propelled social and economic development not only in China, but globally as well.
However, the prospect of continuing at such high levels of urban development is dimming for three reasons. First, urbanization in China in the last three decades was driven externally by international industry transfer associated with the de-industrialization of developed countries. China’s status as “the world’s factory” provided funding and a workforce for urbanization. Internally, policies and regulations favoring urbanization, especially land use policy, paved the way for rapid urbanization. Nevertheless, as China’s economy has begun to slow due to the drop of the global market, the sustainability of this rapid urbanization has become a great challenge.
When the Ebola virus struck Guinea in late 2013, it quietly went on to surpass the infection toll of all other Ebola outbreaks combined. It did this by becoming, for the first time in history, an urban epidemic. It moved from a rural village of Guéckédou to the town of Dabola to the capital city of Conakry via a man who was travelling for business. He died shortly after falling ill, at which point his family took his body to his home village of Watagala. Within a matter of days, the disease was on the move. Ultimately, the outbreak, which continues in Guinea, has to date resulted in over 28,600 cases– more than 60 times higher than the number of cases in the previous largest known Ebola outbreak.
Population density in urban settings had a role in the spread of the virus, as did the limited healthcare and public health services in the country (which sadly were impacted even further through deaths from the illness in healthcare workers tirelessly serving on the front lines in treating patients). But the outbreak, as well as the recent appearance and spread of other emerging infectious diseases, also shows the connectivity of rural and urban settings in disease spread. They also demonstrate the links to pressures we are exerting on our ecosystems, and in the process, facilitating more opportunities for new diseases to appear.