Energy Crisis in Africa: the case of Comoros

Energy Crisis in Africa: the case of Comoros


Energy has long been regarded as an important factor in a country’s social and economic growth. This is still evident today, and it is especially true for weak, non-interconnected areas, such as small island republics. Comoros’s energy status, just like several other Small Island Developing States (SIDS) around the world, is heavily reliant on fossil fuel imports. From the standpoint of sustainability, availability, and affordability, energy security is critical to the archipelago’s socio-economic prosperity. The development of renewable electricity generation appears to be a crucial prerequisite for ensuring a sustainable future as a forward-looking response to energy vulnerability. The potential for renewable energy in Comoros has yet to be investigated. The main problem is that there have never been any reliable energy statistics in the past. As a result, socioeconomic data were obtained and analysed through books, reports, publications, and the World Bank database, among other sources. Meetings and interactions with various energy players in Comoros, as well as published sources, provided most of the data used. The potential for solar or wind energy production was calculated using online geographic information systems (GIS) or freely available open-source software. Despite the enormous potential for renewable energy, hydropower only accounts for 3.8 per cent of the Comorian electrical supply. This article presents an analysis of the energy situation in Comoros, with a focus on renewable energy options to help with the green power supply. The goal of this article is to discuss the steps that are being taken in Comoros to address the present energy crisis as well as to contribute to the construction of a conducive climate for the private sector to participate in the development of renewable energy in the country. The findings of this paper reveal that only 8% of the people in Comoros have access to electricity, with the three islands servicing only 8% of the population (Grande Comore, Moheli and Anjouan). Despite the vast potential of many resources, this study concludes that renewable energies are infrequently utilized. Finally, this study makes recommendations for Comoros to achieve a more sustainable future.


Despite having one of Africa’s highest electrification rates, the Union of Comoros faces a particularly difficult energy scenario. Comoros has the greatest rate of energy loss and the lowest cost recovery rate in Africa. It is estimated that 48% of the electricity generated is wasted, with just 33% of the energy sold being paid for. The enormous power shortage, which acts as a key impediment to the country’s socio-economic development, is one of the most important concerns to overcome in achieving Comoros’ growth possibilities. Due to a structural problem of high generation costs and ineffective sector management, Comoros’ power sector is experiencing an energy crisis. The country’s dependence on fossil fuels and the worn-out national power grid, which is inadequately operated and maintained, hinder socioeconomic development in an already fragile environment. The larger cities and the capital Moroni regularly experience power outages lasting several hours per day.

Comoros is an archipelago, and its geography lends itself to a decentralized power grid with different levels of government on each island. However, the large inventory of public buildings owned by the Comoros government can be used to install solar energy systems and address the energy crisis. In addition to public buildings, mosques account for a significant portion of total electricity consumption in a country where nearly 98% of the population is Muslim and attendance at a mosque in central to religious rituals, practices, and a sense of community. “Public buildings account for about 15% of daily national energy consumption,” said Mohamed Nassur, Director of Energy at the Comoros Ministry of Energy, Water and Hydrocarbons. “Reducing national energy costs by promoting renewable energy will contribute significantly to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The technical assistance provided to Comoros following the Climate Investment Platform’s call for proposals will help the General Directorate of Energy, Mines and Water identify its own consumption needs. For a period of six months, the project Green, and Smart Administration: promoting self-production and self-consumption in public institutions (administration and large mosques) in Comoros will identify energy demand and consumption in public and religious buildings on the three islands of Ngazidja, Anjouan and Mohéli.

The Ministry will use the results of the feasibility study to implement individual and collective self-consumption and, if possible, self-production in all public institutions of the Union of Comoros. “The performance of public administrations is at the mercy of unstable electricity supply. Promoting clean energy will contribute to the national goal of increasing renewable energy supply – and it will also help increase government performance and efficiency. The Climate Investment Platform’s Thomas Jensen Energy Transition Award is a significant step toward more comprehensive and informed climate change initiatives. It will help promote energy conservation and green practices that have the potential to be replicated in other public sectors across the country,” added Fenella Frost, UNDP Representative to Comoros. Mohamed Oussein Dahalani, Imam of the Grand Mosque of Moroni, emphasized the role of clean energy in supporting the mission of large mosques to promote sustainable development initiatives for the well-being of the community and its environment. The unreliability of the current electricity grid and the high cost of electricity make the possibility of switching or incorporating more renewable energy into the energy mix very attractive. The CIP-funded project will contribute to the National Contributions formulated by Comoros.


As already mentioned, the renewable energy potential of Comoros has yet to be investigated. The main issue is that there have never been any reliable energy statistics in the past. As a result, socioeconomic information was gathered using the World Bank database. Meetings and interactions with various energy players in Comoros, as well as published sources, provided most of the data used. The potential for solar or wind energy production was calculated using online geographic information systems (GIS) or freely available open-source software.

Prior to the current energy scenario in Comoros, which is characterized by significant spatial inequalities in terms of energy security and economic development throughout the three islands, the Union of Comoros continues to focus on the issue of sustainable electricity.

In the coming years, Comoros’ main task will be to achieve a balance between the quality of its electricity supply and the growth of a low-carbon energy sector. Despite its enormous potential, the Comoros electrical sector must develop critical solutions to address the financial, management, and governance challenges that continue to hinder renewable energy development, especially in rural areas. In comparison to islands in the Indian Ocean that are close by, such as Mauritius[1], Madagascar[2], and La Reunion[3], Comoros has a negligible share of renewable energy (see Table 1).

Table 1: Energy use by source in 2016[4]

ResourcesEnergy (toe)Share (%)
Liquified Petroleum Gas8310,56
Oil/Jet fuel1641611,07
Dry wood8981660,58
Renewable energy1550,10


There is no explicit policy in place in Comoros to encourage the development of renewable energy sources. This is because of three major issues. To begin with, the country’s economic situation is dire. The country is plagued by structural flaws, and the economy remains unstable, limiting the country’s ability to invest in its development. Second, political instability is a barrier to foreign capital investment and the long-term viability of major policy directions, particularly in the energy sector. Third, developing an energy strategy necessitates precise statistical data on the territory, which is currently missing. In June 2017[5], the Comorian government conducted its first national energy conference, despite all these disadvantages. The government reaffirmed its willingness to guide the country out of its precarious energy predicament during this gathering.

The government has rallied energy stakeholders around Comoro’s Horizon 2030, a medium-term strategic objective. The Ministry of Energy is currently in charge of the electricity delivery. However, the country receives foreign cash on a regular basis to enhance and renew these facilities. The biggest issue until now has been meeting electricity needs with fossil fuel power plants. It is critical to adopt a real energy policy to lay the groundwork for long-term energy planning. The energy sector, however, is not governed by any laws or regulations. As a result, it is critical to developing an incentive as well as an appealing legal structure. Because of the importance of initial investment for investors, this framework is very crucial. A constant challenge with SIDS, as described by Surroop[6], is a lack of political will to begin significant change. Comoros is no different. The establishment of a true political agenda, together with power sector reorganization, would be the first step toward a decarbonized society in the short future. Furthermore, it appears that establishing an independent regulatory framework in which policy decisions and investments may be openly assessed to evaluate whether the established aims are being met is critical. As a result, the creation of a new framework should provide an economic incentive for the energy sector’s harmonic and long-term development. In a vulnerable area like Comoros, economic assistance mechanisms are required in addition to political aspirations to attain electrically self-sufficient islands[7]. Unfortunately, despite the 2017 Energy Conference, the first signs of such a transition have yet to emerge, and the 2017 ambitions have yet to be reflected in national legal frameworks. Therefore, Comoros, like many small islands, must forsake its monolithic energy policy. This strategy has proven structurally cumbersome for many years. To confront the problems of transformation, the country must adjust swiftly. The energy vulnerabilities of Comoros are threefold. To begin with, the high cost of carbon-based power (0.24e/kWh) is attributable to a malfunctioning distribution network. More than 40% of the losses are due to this bad state. These prices are currently the most expensive in the region. However, the region’s reliance on fossil fuels puts it sensitive to global market price swings. Finally, more than 65% of electricity generation is financed by the government. This assistance is impeding the area’s long-term growth. This is because other vital issues, such as access to clean water or mother and child health, are hampered by the energy sector’s resource constraints.


What steps are being taken in Comoros to address the present energy crisis?[8]

To offer basic services to the country, it is critical to address the energy crisis. In this sector, reforms are in the works. The African Development Bank’s (AfDB) choice to concentrate solely on the energy sector in its 2011-2015 country plan demonstrates improvement. They are, nevertheless, insufficient. As a result, the AfDB convened a high-level conference with the Comorian government as well as important technical and financial partners[9].

The Union of Comoros’ Vice President and Minister of Finance, as well as representatives from the public and private sectors, donors such as the World Bank and the Islamic Development Bank, and the AfDB President, will discuss strategic issues and questions related to the country’s energy sector’s long-term development. A high-level meeting was conducted at the African Development Bank headquarters in Abidjan seven years ago to consider solutions to Comoros’ energy crisis[10]. The importance of the private sector in the country’s ailing energy industry was underlined at the meeting.

First Vice President of the African Development Bank, Emmanuel Mbi, stated, “The AfDB is dedicated to assisting Comoros’ energy sector and advancing the coordination of development partners and private sector initiatives. Increased energy production and sustainable and equitable growth require the cooperation of the private sector.” Comoros suffers from a chronic energy shortage, which has hampered the country’s socio-economic progress”[11]. The country has the continent’s greatest energy loss rate and the lowest cost recovery rate. Only 33% of the energy sold is actually paid for, even though 48% of the electricity generated is lost. According to estimates from the Ministry of Energy, roughly 80% of the country is without power, and output levels are almost non-existent. Consumers have access to energy for only five hours every four days, while individuals in remote areas go a month without it. The country’s health sector is likewise being impacted by the energy crisis. The country’s largest public maternity hospital was without power, forcing it to close. “The generator that serves the facility failed, and the staff refused to work with candlelight.”

Woman gives birth on expressway after being kicked out of car - People's  Daily OnlineWomen are now giving birth in automobiles or elsewhere because they cannot afford to give birth at a private hospital, which is too expensive, according to Alfeine Siti Soifiat of the Comoros Planning Office.

The committee stated that numerous generators are out of operation due to lack of maintenance, high operating expenses, and frequent fuel shortages, among other flaws in the country’s power-producing systems. Abdou Nassur, the Minister of Energy, argued for a shift to alternative energy sources. “We can’t rely on a single energy source.” “To meet our country’s energy needs, we need more than one source,” he stated.

The African Association of Energy Producers, whose leader Hickem Jemai advocated for the use of coal because it is less expensive, also welcomed the diversity of energy sources. President Donald Kaberuka of the African Development Bank recently urged for the financing of coal-fired power facilities in a meeting with journalists in London. The use of geothermal energy is also being investigated. Development partners, energy business officials, and the private sector, among others, attended the AfDB and Comoros government’s high-level dialogue. The conference will act as a forum for building a framework for tackling the issues that Comoros’ energy industry is facing to strengthen its contribution to development.


Due to global concerns, Indian Ocean islands are becoming increasingly engaged in energy security and ecological issues. Comoros, like Madagascar, Mauritius, and La Reunion, has recently focused its efforts on converting to renewable energy across its whole territory. This article gives policymakers a detailed picture of Comoros’ energy status. Another goal of this article is to showcase the Comoros archipelago’s potential for incorporating renewable energy into its energy industry. Fossil fuels and hydropower are currently the main energy suppliers in Comoros. In the case of Comoros, some conclusions can be drawn. The first objective is to give an overview of the data and the potential for the development of renewable technologies in the Comoros archipelago. This first step allowed us to characterize the territory and build a reliable database that we are currently using to generate scenarios for Comoros’ electricity autonomy by 2050. One of the biggest issues we identified in 2017 was the availability and reliability of online information about the archipelago. As Dornan[12] points out, external assistance and national energy policies are the key elements that can shape the energy transition for SIDS. Comoros is not just sensitive to the consequences of climate change, but also to global energy price volatility due to its weak socioeconomic status. Furthermore, particularly in non-interconnected areas like Comoros, the link between energy and regional growth is obvious. Several studies have identified remoteness and a small population as barriers to development and energy transitions. A territory like Comoros provides an excellent opportunity to develop new energy policies that promote the use of renewable energy sources. In contrast to Europe’s monolithic energy governance frameworks, the consequences of urgent decisions in Comoros will have a swift impact on the country[13]. As a result, the Union of Comoros must diversify its energy mix as quickly as feasible by using renewable energy sources. According to this article, the three islands have the potential to develop solar, biomass, wind, and geothermal energy. This, however, demands the establishment of both regulatory and investment incentives. These developments will need the creation of a proactive energy strategy that allows for the setting of short- and medium-term targets within the energy planning framework. Further research will strengthen the development of this potential by defining energy scenarios. By 2050, one will be able to propose a steady evolution of the energy mix based on these and later findings.

[1] D. Surroop, P. Raghoo, “Energy landscape in Mauritius”, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 73 (2017) 688–694. doi:10.1016/j.rser.2017.01.175. URL

[2] J. P. Praene, M. H. Radanielina, V. R. Rakotoson, A. L. Andriamamonjy, F. Sinama, 22 D. Morau, H. T. Rakotondramiarana, “Electricity generation from renewables in Madagascar: Opportunities and projections”, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 76 (2017) 1066–1079. doi:10.1016/j.rser.2017.03.125.

[3] F. B´enard-Sora, J. P. Praene, “Territorial analysis of energy consumption of a small remote island: Proposal for classification and highlighting consumption profiles”, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 59 (2016) 636–648. doi:10.1016/j.rser.2016.01.008. URL

[4] M. de l’énergie des Comores, Rapport des assises nationales de l’energie, Tech. rep., Gouvernemnent Union des Comores (2017).

[5] U. des Comores, Rapport des assises nationales de l’énergie en Union des Comores, Tech. rep., Comoros (2017).

[6] D. Surroop, P. Raghoo, F. Wolf, K. U. Shah, P. Jeetah, “Energy access in small island developing states: Status, barriers and policy measures”, Environmental Development 27 (2018) 58–69. doi:10.1016/j.envdev.2018.07.003. URL

[7] Y. Simsek, A. Lorca, T. Urmee, P. A. Bahri, R. Escobar, “Review and assessment of energy policy developments in Chile”, Energy Policy 127 (2019) 87–101. doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2018.11.058. URL


[9] AfDB convened a high-level meeting on March 25 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Discussions to reform ailing energy industry in the Comoros, 27-Mar-2015.

[12] M. Dornan, K. U. Shah, “Energy policy, aid, and the development of renewable energy resources in Small Island Developing States”, Energy Policy 98 (2016) 759–767. doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2016.05.035.

[13] A. Ioannidis, K. J. Chalvatzis, X. Li, G. Notton, P. Stephanides, “The case for islands’ energy vulnerability: Electricity supply diversity in 44 global islands”, Renewable Energy 143 (2019) 440–452.

doi:10.1016/j.renene.2019.04.155. URL

Corporations as a Commons: A Solution to Short-Termism in Modern Capital Markets

Corporations as a Commons: A Solution to Short-Termism in Modern Capital Markets

Simon Deakin in his chapter for the Oxford Handbook of corporation focused on the evolution of the concept of corporate personality in English law. According to the author the mutation of this concept can be inscribed in a broader one: the origins and evolution of industrialized market economies. The concept of corporate personality can be seen as the evolution of previous legal forms including “partnerships” and “trusts” and this was necessary to perform certain economic activities. These economic activities were mainly two: entity shielding and capital lock-in, the latter being a consequence of the former. Entity shielding can be defined as the separation between the shareholder’s assets and the corporation’s assets. In this way the company’s assets are protected by the claims of shareholders’ creditors. Entity shielding though is very important also for another reason, because it prevents shareholders to withdraw their shares of firm assets at will. Without entity shielding creditors not only would have to assess the firm’s business prospects but also the shareholders’ personal dealings. Entity shielding therefore reduces drastically information costs, but not only. This mechanism also reduces the costs of monitoring among co-owners.

As we can see in this phase the law has changed in order to adapt to economic interests. But considering the rise of industrial market economies as the only pressure for the rise of corporate personality does not tell the whole story. There were other drivers that lead to the creation of this concept such as concerns related to risks towards third parties. The concept of corporate personality was essential for pursuing the attempt to co-opt the business firm to the realization of certain goals of social policy, through taxation and regulation, thereby giving a legal expression to the concept of corporate responsibility. In fact, corporate personality can only be understood if we consider other legal sectors like employment law and taxation law, not only company law.

Corporate personality makes the corporation a distinct legal entity which cannot be owned. Nevertheless, corporations are still considered the equivalent of the shareholders’ interests. This was legitimated by the Principal-Agent theory which sees managers as agents of the shareholders. This theory though misrepresents the true nature of corporate personality itself: the fact that the corporation as such cannot be owned. “This is to say that the firm, understood as the enduring organizational structure which combines human and physical assets to produce a surplus, cannot be owned by any single individual or group” (Deakin, 2019). The firm’s assets vest in the corporation which, as a legal person, cannot be the object of a direct ownership of claim. The absence of a single ownership claim over the totality of assets and relationships, that constitute the essence of the firm, assures the survival of the entity itself. Therefore, a corporation can be better understood as a commons in which there are multiple overlapping claims that need to be reconciled through rules that are mutually agreed upon all the parties involved. Just like natural resources though, the firm is not “ownerless”. Shareholders’ right in their shares give them certain property-like claims over the surplus generated by the firm in the form of dividends. Similar income rights though belong to the workers and creditors. Just like natural commons risk depletion, also the firm’s resources may encounter the same problems in fact, within corporations, there are rules to prevent this. An example of this could be the lock-in mechanisms described earlier which make it hard for shareholders to remove the firm’s working capital as long as it is a going concern.

In the last part of the chapter Deakin explains how the studies of Elinor Ostrom can be applied to the governance of corporations. First of all, it is important to stress the fact that commons do not have to be understood as open access. Empirical research shows that enduring natural commons all have certain rules that determine who can access and how. Furthermore, another essential aspect that is fundamental for the preservation of commons is limits on the right of alienation in order to avoid overexploitation. These aspects hold true also for the corporation. We can clearly see that there are limits on the right of alienation and they manifest within the different capital lock-in rules that prevent the exploitation of common pool resources. Also, the overlapping proprietary claims discussed above reassemble the access problem analyzed by Elinor Ostrom. Another aspect that is crucial for the preservation of a common are the institutional arrangements that regulate the various property rights. Ostrom et al have elaborated eight design principles for a functioning governance of a common that according to Deakin can be applied to the corporate structure. Commons research points towards a model of corporate law that is based upon a multi-stakeholder governance scheme of the corporation against the predominant shareholder-centric governance approach. It also highlights the value of allowing self-regulatory norms to be elaborated within the corporation.

The commons-based governance approach presented by Deakin could be used to tackle a very important issue: short-termism in capital markets. If we identify the corporation only with the interests of the shareholders, it is plausible to assume that mangers will try to obtain the highest number of profits in the shortest amount of time. This will lead to short-term investments which aim at gaining profits as soon as possible. This tendency though poses at least two threats. One for the corporation itself, the other for society itself. Let’s start by discussing the former. We must start by saying that short-termism has a cost. The elimination of short-termism could result in a level of output that is 20% higher than would otherwise be the case (Davies et al. 2014). This means that abandoning short-termism should be in the interest of the company itself. Many of the most promising sectors such as clean energy, pharmaceuticals, biotech and new technologies require patient investment. These sectors need to overcome many obstacles in order to deliver solutions to the market and therefore require patient financing. It is interesting to note for example that in the United State almost 75% of the revolutionary drugs were funded in public sectors labs (Mazzucato, 2013). This is because generally public investment is not tied to the aim of generating short-term profits. Not only short-termism affects the company itself, but it also affects society as whole. The fact that new sectors that could deliver groundbreaking solutions and could generate positive impacts for society are not attractive for investments is a constrain on innovation and a loss of social wealth. But there are other ways in which a shareholder-centric approach undermines companies and society. Let’s start by a concrete example. In 2011 the pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer not only distributed 6.2 billions in dividends but also spent 9 billions to purchase its own stocks in order to boost the gains of shareholders (Ibid). These mechanisms have been used by other big players in the pharmaceutical sector in fact, in this sector there has been a reduction in the funds destinated to R&D while there has been an increase in the funds dedicated to the purchase of their own stocks (Ibid). In this way less money is invested in the production of goods that in the long run can be more profitable for the company and society itself. Furthermore, in this way stocks fail to deliver reliable information on the true value of the company. Other adverse consequences that shareholder-centric corporations may cause to society and other corporations derive from takeovers. While more extensive research needs to be done on the consequences of friendly takeovers it can be said that hostile takeovers, which is when a company is willing to acquire another company despite the objection of the board of directors of the targeted company, lead the targeted company to under invest therefore undermining its performance (Canoy et al, 2000). This for example can lead to a loss of jobs and a general reduction of output.

A commons-based approach to the governance of the corporation could help to overcome these issues. Taking into account the interest of other stakeholders such as managers and employees could help to focus more on the performance of the corporation and tie the shareholders to long term goals. Furthermore, such an approach could benefit society as a whole. It is therefore interesting to study more in detail the possible policy solutions to avoid short-termism and regulate takeovers. These two policy fields could help to rebalance power relations among stakeholders and pave the way for the conceiving of the corporation as a common.


  • S. Deakin, The Corporation as Commons: Rethinking Property Rights, Governance and Sustainability in the Business Enterprise, Queen’s Law Journal, 2019.
  • R. Davies, A.G. Haldane, M. Nielsen & S. Pezzini, Measuring the costs of short-termism, Journal of Financial Stability, 2014.
  • M. Canoy, Y. E. Riyanto & P. van Cayseele, Corporate Takeovers, Bargaining and Managers’ Incentives to Invest, Managerial and Decision Economics Vol. 21, No. 1
  • Mazzucato, M. The entrepreneurial state: Debunking public vs. private sector myths, Penguin Economics, 2015

Sustainable development: the African journey towards sustainability

Sustainable development: the African journey towards sustainability


Sustainable development (SD) has increasingly played a key background role in government policy making across the world, especially for the least developed countries in Africa. This paper examines the SD of African countries in public life, education, and welfare, and helps policy makers better monitor the status of SD and formulate development policies in these aspects. The paper first proposes a new method to assess the SD in public life, education, and welfare. Then it assesses and analyzes the Sustainable Development of African countries. The findings of this paper are situated both in the context of prior studies and in relation to opportunities for further academic study. The findings however reveal three issues: first, that there was a positive correlation between income level and SD across African countries; second, that the most SD leading countries were in South and North Africa, while most low SD countries were in the middle; and third, that there were different characteristics of SD status between North African and Sub-Saharan African countries. This paper discusses an important research question that needed to be discussed: What should Africa do to rectify its development trajectory and to make economic development more inclusive? And made comparison between African countries and the countries in other continents. This paper suggests the following possible recommendations. First, the basis of all development is the establishment of a stable political power for those countries still in political chaos. Second, following the practices of European and other developed countries, establishing and improving the judicial, economic, and fiscal institutional systems in combination with the characteristics and development situation of their own countries is vital. After that, taking economic growth as the priority of national development, and establishing economic and trade cooperation with Europe, the United States, China, and other more developed countries is needed. Lastly, the government should pay more attention to sustainable development in public life, education, and welfare when the economic and income level reaches a certain stage.

Keywords: Sustainable development (SD), Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), environmental sustainability


Sustainability-related efforts remain central to development, and their accomplishment varies across places for a variety of reasons including climatic and geographic differences. This variability makes a regional focus important[1]. With the adoption of the SDGs in September 2015, Africa made commitments to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Africa Union Agenda 2063. It always faced a steep climb, its starting point being lower than the rest of the world’s. The continent was at a crossroads, with low tax revenues in relation to GDP at one end of the problem and enormous development needs at the other. The SDGs were conceptualized and adopted during a period of tight global economic and financial conditions. Recent analysis of the SDGs, including the previous Sustainable Development Goal Centre for Africa (SDGCA) reports on the 2030 Agenda and the first Africa SDG Index 2018, shows that African countries still lag in terms of achieving the SDGs, with different countries facing different problems.[2]

Despite the widespread adoption of, and the progress toward the SDGs, Africa continues to lag in most of the world when it comes to social and economic development. In fact, a recent report by the SDGCA — “Africa 2030: Sustainable Development Goals Three-Year Reality Check”—reveals that minimal progress has been made and, in some instances, there is complete stagnation. More than half of the global poor (those who earn under $1.90 PPP per day) are found in Africa. One in three Africans is at the risk of food insecurity (Begashaw 2019). According to Begashaw, Africa is relatively on track to meet three goals: SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG 13 (climate action), and SDG 15 (life on land). In fact, the SDG Centre’s forecasts (for the SDGs for which we have sufficient data: poverty, malnutrition, maternal mortality, net school enrolment, access to electricity, and access to drinking water) show that all African regions except North Africa are unlikely to meet the SDGs. The struggle is more pronounced for Central Africa across all the goals.

Economic Growth and Human Development Gaps

The region’s growth over the SDG period was well below the SDG target of 7 percent per year and below the historical long-term average. In 2016—the year after the adoption of the SDGs—the sub-Saharan African region’s growth dropped to 1.4 percent. Globalization (migration, trade, and finance) has been under pressure or even reversing; China’s growth, which historically has been positively correlated with Africa’s, has decelerated in recent years; global trade growth has also dwindled; commodity prices remain depressed; and climatic conditions remain unfavourable. At the same time, social inclusion continues to be outstripped by population growth, impeding structural transformation and future productivity. Twenty-eight African countries are categorized as low income and 37 as having low human development (Begashaw 2019).

A child born in Africa today is still at risk of not receiving a full, high-quality education or decent health care. An African child in school today continues to struggle to read and write due to poor quality of education services. Too many Africans continue not to visit the hospital due to lack of money. In fact, some African countries have a Human Capital Index score of less than 0.4. In other words, a child born today in these countries will be only 40 percent as productive at 18 years of age as one who completes their education and enjoys full health.

Data Gaps Persist: While we do have a snapshot of the progress Africa (and the world) is making towards achieving the SDGs, a holistic review of SDGs over the last years was not possible given that not enough data exists. In fact, only 96 indicators have data (41.4 percent of the global indicator framework). Where data exists, it is not comprehensive and consistent. Too often, African countries do not possess updated data for crucial indicators in poverty, health, nutrition, education, and infrastructure. Household surveys are irregular: Their scope, comprehensiveness, quantity, and quality vary wildly. At the continental level, there is just not enough data for tracking SDGs 10, 11, and 12 (Begashaw 2019). This paper however reveals that education is the most important factor for sustainable development in public life, education, and welfare. And education is as important as health.


The Assessment Framework of SD in Public Life, Education, and Welfare[3]

Sustainable development in public life, education, and welfare was assessed by adopting the social dimension of the National Sustainable Development Index (NSDI) that was built with 12 indicators in economic, social, and environmental dimensions based on the concept of sustainable development (see Jin et al. (2021))[4]. Sustainable development is to coordinate socio-economic, and environmental development, and balance the intra-generational welfare, to maximize the total welfare of generations[5] [6]. In other words, the government should set sustainable development as a comprehensive goal including economic, social, and environmental dimensions[7]. Governments should also pursue a relatively high and fair income for citizens, a potential for economic growth, and a reasonable economic structure to improve the welfare of the present generation, in the economic dimension. From the resource and environmental dimension, the climate and air quality not only reflect the living conditions and quality of human beings in the present generation, but also affect that of future generations, while forests, arable land, and energy consumption represent the current resource and environmental conditions and affect the performance of economic activities. And in the social dimension, governments should not only improve social welfare, but should also consider social fairness and harmony, thus education for the young, medical treatment for the sick, basic sanitation, and drinking water should be guaranteed. Therefore, Jin et al suggest that the NSDI should contain these factors, namely “economic growth,” “income level,” and “economic structure” in the economic dimension, “climate,” “air quality,” “forest,” “arable land,” and “energy” in the resource and environmental dimension, and “education,” “health,” “drinking water,” and “sanitation facilities” in the social dimension. And they should select the corresponding indicators for each factor, based on the principles of representativeness, comparability, and data availability. So, we choose the social dimension of the NSDI to study the SD in public life, education, and welfare for Africa countries.


This paper measures the weight of four indicators with the entropy method (see the last column of Table 1 below). As a result, each indicator accounted for the following weight: education 36.36%, health 35.09%, drinking water 14.60%, and sanitation facilities 13.95%. It means that education is the most important factor for sustainable development in public life, education, and welfare. And education is as important as health.

This paper measures the weight of four indicators with the entropy method (see the last column of Table 1 below). As a result, each indicator accounted for the following weight: education 36.36%, health 35.09%, drinking water 14.60%, and sanitation facilities 13.95%. It means that education is the most important factor for sustainable development in public life, education, and welfare. And education is as important as health.

Table 1. The weight of the four indicators

According to the weights in Table 1, we aggregate the four indicators into a composite index, and assess the SD score for 51 Africa countries as well the other countries (see Table 2 below). As a result, the SD score of each country is ranged from 0 to 1. The SD score of each Africa country is shown in Table 2, the top five countries are Mauritius (0.6514), Gabon (0.5836), Gambia (0.5648), Morocco (0.5496), and Togo (0.5474), while the bottom five countries are Mali (0.3863), Mauritania (0.3857), Central African Republic (0.3377), Chad (0.3260), and Niger (0.3031).

Table 2. The score of SD in public life, education, and welfare in Africa[]

The SD score of each country showed distinct characteristics in income level. These countries are divided into four categories according to income levels following the World Bank’s standard, namely high, upper-middle, lower-middle-, and low-income countries. As Table 2 shows, countries with higher SD score tended to have a higher income level. For example, there are only three low-income countries in the top 20, while 13 low-income countries are in the bottom 20. This means that there may be a positive correlation between income level and SD score. The main reasons are: (1) Those low-income countries have very limited fiscal revenue, leading to insufficient supply of public goods, such as education, medical care, public health, etc.[8]; (2) Some low-income countries lack a systematic and efficient public management system, which makes the supply of public goods inefficient[9].

Figure 1. Geographical distribution of SD scores in Africa. (1) The darker the blue, the higher the SD score of the country, while grey indicates missing data. (2) Above the dark blue dividing line are North African countries, and below are Sub-Saharan African countries.

Figure 1 shows the geographical distribution of SD score in Africa. It should be noted that the darker the blue, the higher the SD score and SD performance in public life, education, and welfare. The countries in North and South Africa have the deepest blue and the highest SD score, such as South Africa and Morocco. On the contrary, central African countries north of the equator have the lightest blue and the lowest SD score, which means that SD performance is at the bottom level, such as in Central African Republic, Chad, and Niger. In sum, the geographical distribution of SD score shows that SD is high in South and North Africa, while low in the middle.

Africa need to adopt a new development trajectory

African youths did not benefit from the recent economic growth, since many of them either lack the relevant training or are unable to access capital to improve production. Nevertheless, Africa accounts for a significant fraction of the world’s youth (1/5th in 2012).[10] This share is expected to increase to 1/3rd of global youth by 2050. If Africa wants to benefit from the potential demographic dividend over the coming decades, it will be crucial to empower its youth with the relevant skills to meet the continent’s future job market needs. In today’s labour market, the transition from school to work is already challenging. Youth unemployment/underemployment rates are two to three times as high as those of adults. The “Arab Springs” demonstrated that youth unemployment might be a “ticking time bomb” if the transition from school continues to lead to unemployment.[11] Youths face challenges when searching for wage employment, in both the formal and the informal sectors. Governments need to make the appropriate supply-side responses to improve both the quantity and quality of education and skills training. This will require collaboration between governments and the private sector in order to create an enabling macroeconomic employment environment. In addition, because of the high prevalence of informality in Africa, a further challenge will be to find an effective way to harness the potential of youth entrepreneurs.[12]

The recent growth performance in Africa did not help to address issues of inequality resulting in the exclusion of both women and youth from the benefits of growth. Therefore, inequality and poverty are still Africa’s major challenges. These need to be addressed in order to achieve the SDGs. Over 120 million Africans are out of work, and more than 672 million live in poverty. Consequently, Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest prevalence of hunger: With one in four people being undernourished; More than 32 million children under-five are underweight; and, about 45% of deaths in children under-five are caused by poor nutrition (FAO, 2015). In addition, out of Africa’s 312 million adult women, 115 million are at risk of domestic violence. This disrupts their productive and reproductive roles as well as being a clear violation of their human rights. Therefore, achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) remains unfinished business for most African countries. The solution proposed is to adopt a development trajectory that is both more inclusive and sustainable.

What should Africa do to rectify its development trajectory and to make economic development more inclusive?

A new development trajectory should enable Africa to provide decent jobs, including most of the youth and women. It also needs to produce enough food for Africa’s population, especially the most vulnerable. To do so, Africa needs to industrialize, but this requires that the continent to first resolve some of its major deficits. One priority is to address the infrastructural deficit, especially the energy deficiency. Without energy, nothing else can happen. Energy fuels economic activities, especially production, industrialisation and the delivery of services. The continent will also need to resolve important shortfalls in its labour market, labour productivity and costs, and the adequacy of skilled labour for market needs, especially in the industrial and manufacturing sectors. Another important priority for Africa will be to expand domestic market sizes in order to benefit from potential economies of scale across the continent. This can be achieved by increasing intra-regional trade so that Africans can feed themselves, instead of allocating most of their income to imports from mainly western and emerging markets. Adopting such a development trajectory will lead to a real structural transformation in the continent and, thereby, to improvements in the living conditions of many of Africa’s poor people. These are precisely the priorities of the African Development Bank for the next decade.

Discussion: A Comparison Between Africa and Other Countries [13]

The SD scores of 179 countries are shown in Figure 2. As a result, the top 10 countries are Denmark (0.7840), the Netherlands (0.7423), Sweden (0.7095), Finland (0.7075), Norway (0.6960), Germany (0.6915), Canada (0.6895), the United States (0.6856), Belgium (0.6807), and Austria (0.6799), while the bottom 10 countries are Nepal (0.3980), Eritrea (0.3959), Sierra Leone (0.3952), Mali (0.3863), Mauritania (0.3857), Afghanistan (0.3729), Yemen (0.3391), Central African (0.3377), Chad (0.3260), and Niger (0.3031).

Figure 2. SD score for each country (upper) and continent (lower). The darker the blue, the higher the mean SD score of the country (upper) or the continent (lower).

The SD score and ranking of each country show distinct characteristics. Most of the high-SD countries are in Europe and North America. The countries with a low SD score are mainly in Africa and Asia. In addition, we find that all the developed countries [14] [15] are high SD score countries, and most of them are ranked in the top 30, while most of the bottom 30 countries are developing countries in Africa.

There are three main reasons for the poor SD performance in developing countries. First, the level of economy and residents’ income is relatively low. Second, the supply of public goods and services is insufficient and inefficient, like education, public health, and environmental protection, due to poor governments or inadequate fiscal revenue[16]. Lastly, some developing countries, such as China, are bombarded with such problems as inadequate management and technology of pollution control and resource utilization, while still promoting economic growth at all costs, which damages national sustainable development[17].

The geographical distribution of the SD score is shown in Figure 2. As the figure shows, the darker the blue, the higher the NSDI of the country and the better its performance in sustainable development, while the white indicates missing data. We find that European and North American countries have the highest average SD scores, Africa the lowest, and South America and Asia in the middle.

There is an important reason for that geographical distribution. On the one hand, the countries with a higher economic level always maintain a good performance in sustainable development, because of their established and sound system in public management. On the other hand, those low-income countries not only have a poor economic foundation, but also do not have the above conditions, so they always find it difficult to improve SD performance. Some countries have even been mired in war and extreme poverty.


Overall, the problems highlighted in this paper, future growth in Africa will, for most part, depend on successes in diversifying towards highly productive manufacturing and improving the productive capabilities of African economies through science and technology, especially in agriculture and agro industrialisation. Achieving these ends calls for increasing investment in key growth determinants such as physical and human capital, and improvement in the institutions that optimize the combination of these resources. To this extent, investment in energy for people and for firms, in agricultural technology, and in other infrastructure and human capital needs will remain priority areas for the Bank. Making growth more inclusive requires enhancing the capacity of segments of society with limited opportunity to participate and benefit from the continent’s growth. The Bank’s prioritized intervention areas are selected with this in mind. An industrial process that is underpinned by improved agricultural productivity, accessible and reliable sources of energy and well-integrated markets will generally contribute to poverty reduction by raising productivity and improving the level of participation among the poor and other marginalized groups.

The article can be downloaded through this link.

[1] Riva C. H. Denny, Sandra T. Marquart-Pyatt; Environmental Sustainability in Africa: What Drives the Ecological Footprint over Time? Sociology of Development 1 March 2018; 4 (1): 119–144. doi:

[2] Sustainable Development Goal Centre for Africa (SDGC/A), 2019, Africa 2030 2019 Version, ISSN 2077-5091.

[3] Li D, He G, Jin H and Tsai F-S (2021) Sustainable Development of African Countries: Minding Public Life, Education, and Welfare. Front. Public Health 9:748845. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2021.748845.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Guillén-Royo M. Sustainability and wellbeing: Human-scale development in practice. London, UK: Routledges (2016).

[6] Kwatra S, Sharma P, Kumar A. A critical review of studies related to construction and computation of Sustainable Development Indices. Ecol Indic. (2020) 112:106061. doi: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2019.106061

[7] Goodland R, Daly H. Environmental sustainability: universal and non-negotiable. Ecol Appl. (1996) 6:1002. doi: 10.2307/2269583

[8] Jin H, Qian X. How the Chinese government has done with public health from the perspective of the evaluation and comparison about public-health expenditure. Int J Environ Res Public Health. (2020) 17:1–16. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17249272s.

[9] Jin H, Jorge Martinez-Vazquez. Sustainable Development and the Optimal Level of Fiscal Expenditure Decentralization. Georgia, USA: ICePP Working Paper Series, #2103, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University (2021).

[10], Accessed 18 February, 2022.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.


[14] According to the standards of the CIA’s World Fact Book and IMF.

[15] Hametner M, Kostetckaia M. Frontrunners and laggards: how fast are the EU member states progressing towards the sustainable development goals? Ecol Econ. (2020) 177:106775. doi: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2020.106775.

[16] Jin H, Qian X. How the Chinese government has done with public health from the perspective of the evaluation and comparison about public-health expenditure. Int J Environ Res Public Health. (2020) 17:1–16. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17249272s.

[17] Jin H, Qian X, Chin T, Zhang H. Global assessment of sustainable development: based on the modification of human development index with entropy method. Sustainability. (2020) 12:1–20. doi: 10.3390/su12083251.

Cities: a Common Front Against Climate Change and in Post-pandemic Recovery

Cities: a Common Front Against Climate Change and in Post-pandemic Recovery

When former U.S. President Donald Trump announced his withdrawal from the Paris Agreement in 2019, 61 U.S. mayors joined in opposition to the government and signed a declaration of commitment to the Agreement’s goals. This act set a powerful example for cities around the world to become aware of their potential for change. It testifies to the role that cities are acquiring in the international landscape. After all, although they cover only about 2% of the planet, since 2007 they have been home to more than 50% of the global population, with the prospect estimated by the World Bank of reaching 70% in 2070. Cities are also powerful economic agents, accounting for 80% of the world’s GDP, and also produce most greenhouse gas emissions, covering about 75% of the total. According to many scholars, the 21st century is witnessing the loss of political weight of the state and the rise of the city as an entity of international importance. On the other hand, cities have always been protagonists on the international scene, and many define the Westphalian world as a brief phase of the importance of states in a history characterized by the role of local entities.

Climate change has now conquered the global media scene, also because of the increasingly frequent natural disasters it induces. As unfortunately witnessed by this summer’s extreme events, climate change is no longer a distant prospect, estimated only by the scientific community, but a tangible reality. This leads the various global institutions to seek mitigation and adaptation strategies. In this context, a central role is played by cities. 

When former U.S. President Donald Trump announced his withdrawal from the Paris Agreement in 2019, 61 U.S. mayors joined in opposition to the government and signed a declaration of commitment to the Agreement’s goals [1]. This act set a powerful example for cities around the world to become aware of their potential for change. It testifies to the role that cities are acquiring in the international landscape. After all, although they cover only about 2% of the planet, since 2007 they have been home to more than 50% of the global population, with the prospect estimated by the World Bank of reaching 70% in 2070. Cities are also powerful economic agents, accounting for 80% of the world’s GDP, and also produce most greenhouse gas emissions, covering about 75% of the total [2]. According to many scholars, the 21st century is witnessing the loss of political weight of the state and the rise of the city as an entity of international importance. On the other hand, cities have always been protagonists on the international scene, and many define the Westphalian world as a brief phase of the importance of states in a history characterized by the role of local entities [3].

To ensure greater effectiveness in their international action, cities have, over time, formed networks, i.e., associations of local governments to share knowledge, collaborate with public and private actors and defend collective urban interests. More than 200 formal networks are currently in place, with four new ones growing each year. Networks focused on environmental issues account for nearly one-third of the total. Major ones include UCLG, C40 and ICLEI. 

Another important network of cities is Urban 20 (U20), a parallel mechanism to the Group of 20 that works to provide recommendations to national leaders to implement urban policies that are fair, sustainable and cost-effective. In the year of Italy’s G20 presidency, U20 met in Rome in September under the co-chairmanship of the cities of Rome and Milan to discuss appropriate urban policies to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 and to ensure a recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that is both equitable and sustainable.

The pandemic has caused millions of deaths and displaced people around the world. What began as a health crisis quickly turned into a human and socioeconomic crisis. At the same time, the world has entered the “decade of action,” which requires accelerating sustainable solutions to major global problems, ranging from inequality to climate change. Being able to reduce global emissions by 50% means, according to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, mobilizing all sectors of society for a decade on three levels: global action, ensuring smarter leadership, resources, and solutions to achieve the SDGs; local action, integrating the necessary transitions into the legal frameworks, policies, budgets, and institutions of cities and local governments; and citizen action, which includes civil society, trade unions, the media, academia, and the younger generation, which are especially needed to spark a global movement that pushes for sustainable transformation [4].

In this context, the G20 countries are better equipped to deal with the health crisis because of their vast economic resources. However, since they are also the main producers of carbon emissions, they have a responsibility to be at the forefront of the fight against climate change. And this according to the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities”, the seventh of the Declaration on Environment and Development launched at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and among the fundamental principles of the Framework Convention on Climate Change, approved at the same international conference. In the aftermath of the pandemic and in the year of COP26, G20 national governments announced that they would cumulatively pour $13 billion in fiscal support, stimulus packages and recovery plans, which should be spent wisely and sustainably to significantly reduce GHG emissions, create job opportunities and increase resilience. 

Well, despite the proclamations, only 7% of COVID-19 incentive packages are explicitly dedicated to green projects. Instead, the U20 mayors are proposing the full use of funds to contribute to the goals of the Paris Agreement. This includes, in particular, an end to fossil fuel incentives and increased investment in green areas in cities, public transportation, and sustainable food systems. In addition, G20 countries should support developing countries to ensure a global and equitable green transition. 

Another top priority of all recovery plans is job creation. Mayors suggest that a green and just recovery has the potential to create up to 50 million jobs by the end of 2025 in C40 cities. Equal employment opportunity, support for increasing women’s participation in the workforce, and regulation of informal work in key sectors are essential aspects of a fair and just transition. 

Finally, recovery must be local. Although cities are home to the majority of the population of G20 countries and have been the hardest hit by the pandemic, they have not been adequately involved in developing recovery plans and the majority will not directly benefit. The co-chairs of the U20 2021 Summit are calling on G20 leaders to ensure that cities receive stimulus packages and that national recovery plans include at least 30 percent urban projects. They argue that cities already have ambitious climate action plans and should be supported in introducing recovery measures at the local level in order to build back better and become essential allies of nations in achieving climate goals [5].

The plans outlined by the U20 group of mayors are forward-looking, ambitious, and require a high level of cooperation among cities to achieve the goals that will lead to climate neutrality in 2050. Mayors are doing great work in persuading national leaders, and it is often because of them that more just and sustainable policies are being put in place. If every local entity worked towards the best possible stewardship of their land, achieving the SDG goals and the promise of a more sustainable world would easily become a reality: think global, act local. 


[1] Climate Mayors (2019) Statement From The Climate Mayors in Response to President Trump’s Withdrawal From the Paris Climate Agreement. Statement originally released on 1 June 2017 with 61 signatories. Updated signatories on 27 November 2019. Text available at

[2] World Bank, (2020) Urban Development. Last Updated 20 April 2020. Available at

[3] Marchetti, R. (2021) ‘City Diplomacy. A New Chance for the Italian G20 Presidency.’ Published 16 April 2021. Rome: Luiss Open. Available at

[4] United Nations (2020) Decade of Action. Sustainable Development Goals. New York: UN. Available at

[5] Urban 20 (2021) Rome-Milan Communiqué. Issued in the context of the Urban 20 Mayors Summit in Rome. Rome: U20.

Sustainable public procurement in a nutshell

Sustainable public procurement in a nutshell

Generally speaking, public procurement is the process through which public bodies buy works, goods, or services from a third supplier. Public bodies are schools, hospitals, local governments, prisons, etc. and what they buy can be for instance the food for meals at school, the cleaning service and cleaning products, buses for public transport, and so on. Within the European Union, public procurement amounts to approximately 15% of the EU gross domestic product (GDP).

The genesis – The first statutory recognition of Public Procurement from the EU can be rooted back in the ‘70s, a period in which the Community also dealt with the elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers, among which public procurement (PP). The 70s Procurement Directives were able to promote savings and price convergence, albeit respecting the core economic principles of the EC, namely transparency, non-discrimination, objectivity and open competition, but also free movement of goods and services, right of establishment and the prohibition of discrimination. Over the years the Directives have been amended several times and new, innovative conceptions of Public Procurement have been provided by scholars. Kunzlik talked for the first time about strategic procurement, i.e., a new conceptualization that conceives PP as an occasion for achieving secondary objectives. But which secondary objectives? Here comes the core of this article. Public procurement has enormous potential for achieving environmental and social sustainability, driving the market offer of sustainable products, to promote Research&Development (R&D) and innovation.

Definitions – According to the objectives it pursues PP has been named in different ways: Green Public Procurement (GPP) Social Public Procurement (SPP) or Socially Responsible Public Procurement (SRPP) and Public Procurement of Innovative Solutions (PPI), Circular Public Procurement (CPP). The way public procurement is able to pursue secondary purposes stands in the contract design and in this regard the latest Public Procurement Directives[1] (2014) – in particular, Directive 24/2014 – represent a decent result. Let’s think about public procurement as a series of sequential activities:


Along this cycle, public bodies have several occasions for including within the contract environmental or social criteria that the goods, service or work they want to buy must fulfill.

Analysis of the EU legislation on public procurement – Let’s now take a brief look at how contracts can lever sustainability.

While drafting the contract, for example, the public body could require in the technical specifications (Art. 42), that hospital staff uniforms must be made with recycled and organic textile, labeled with any fair-trade certification. In the case of the provision of the catering service within a university, the public body, e.g. universities, could require, within the contract performance clauses (Art. 70) of the contract, that the weekly menus include only products or recipes from the Mediterranean diet or that the staff ensure a congruent use of the canteen premises (turning off lights in the absence of people, correctly dispose of garbage, etc.). Other relevant provisions of Directive 24/2014 regarding preliminary market consultations (art. 40) “with a view to preparing the procurement and informing economic operators of their procurement plans and requirements”. The importance of this article lies in giving advance notice to third parties who intend to participate in the tender that can allow them to best adapt to the requirements. The contracting authority may want the products supplied to bear a specific label (art. 43) or to meet the criteria determined by this label, without having it. The bidder may need time to adapt the products it produces to the labeling criteria.

Another important aspect established by the directives and not immediately apparent is the scope of the mandatory principle of non-discrimination, equality and avoidance of distortion of competition (Art. 18). These principles are the basis not only of European substantive law but also of procedural law, included in the discipline of procurement. The enormous scope of the principles has an impact on the prohibition of favoring candidates on the basis of nationality or proximity, for example. In a contract for the supply of food products, for example, it is forbidden to select an agricultural company simply because it comes from the same territory in which the supply should be made. Although it may seem contradictory, one of the main purposes of the European Union is to promote the free movement of goods, preventing protectionist practices by member states. Although this implies the impossibility to select a product on the basis of a territorial criterion – let’s think about our beloved Km0 products that have a low impact on the environment also because the means of transport cover shorter distances – the directives still offer other opportunities to pursue environmental sustainability. In this regard, the Directive 24/2014 seeks to protect small and medium-sized enterprises through article 46, which allows contracting authorities to award the contract in the form of separate lots, so that if the scope of the contract, in terms of goods to be supplied, for example, is large, small manufacturers or suppliers are still taken into account. The article is in fact intended to ensure that firms producing on a small scale are not automatically excluded, but rather several small enterprises are involved in the procurement process at the same time. The Directive 2014/24 also provides for mandatory exclusion criteria (Art. 57), for example, if the prospective supplier has been accused of corruption, child labor or human trafficking, financing of terrorist activities. It is not required, but only permitted to exclude participants from the procurement process if they have violated environmental, social and labor obligations (Art. 18) – but the burden of proof is up to the contracting authority.

In addition, according to which principle do contracting authorities generally award contracts? As a rule, following the screening of all bids and their consistency with what was requested in the tender, the authorities award the contract on the basis of the lowest price. However, it is worth mentioning a consistent change made in the EU Procurement Directives (already in the 2004 amendment[2]). The reference to the evaluation not only of the lowest price offer, but also of quality and life-cycle costing (LCC) of that offer (Art. 67/68). LCC refers to costs relating to the acquisition, the use (e.g. consumption of energy), maintenance costs, end of life costs, such as collection and recycling costs of the products and importantly “costs imputed to environmental externalities linked to the product, service or works during its life cycle”.  Last, but not least, the great work carried out by the EU Commission and the experts has been that of drawing up Green (but not yet social) Criteria that can be easily incorporated into contracts by public authorities. The criteria have been drawn up for numerous categories of products and services such as construction, ICT services, canteen services, cleaning products, street lighting, road surfaces, etc. However, according to procurement experts, the directives have some gaps that in fact demonstrate the weak grip of Sustainable Public Procurement.

Limits of the SPP – One of the main weaknesses is that the GPP criteria are not compulsory. Although some member states, among which Italy, have made GPP criteria compulsory for certain categories of products[3], its uptake is still very low, especially considering the ambitious commitment recently undertaken with the EU Green Deal. In December 2020, the EU Commission has stressed its intention to make (part of) GPP criteria mandatory for all member states. Another loophole consists in the lack of training of public bodies about contract design and GPP criteria, in conjunction with lack of engagement with environmental issues. Some studies demonstrate that administrations are more likely to make public procurement greener if they personally want to fight climate change[4]. Another limitation of the directives, as highlighted by Abby Semple[5], is the need for selection criteria, technical specifications, labels and award criteria to be linked to the subject matter of the contracts. In a few words this means that when contracting authorities evaluate different bids, their evaluation must concern just what is considered the subject matter of their contract. Let’s imagine that the City of Oslo would like to purchase renewable energy for the whole city. During the evaluation of the different offers (bids), the City administration may not opt for the company which, beyond the requested amount of renewable energy and their equal price, produces the highest amount of renewable energy as a company, for instance. Public bodies may not, then, interrogate the corporate socio-environmental responsibility, so for example choosing the ‘greenest’ company among those who were competing. Also, if a contracting authority is willing to award the contract to the tenderer which has the lower carbon footprint i.e. in the transport of the products to be supplied, a strict interpretation of the link to the subject matter of the contract may not be efficient. Indeed, the contracting authority may award the contract to a supplier located close to the point of consumption, while the tenderer may need to stock other customers that can be located very far[6].

So, what if the GPP criteria become mandatory? What if the link-to-the-subject-matter will be eliminated? I leave to you the cue.

For more and detailed information please visit

[1] Directive 2004/18/EC – the ‘classical public sector directive’ – and Directive 2004/17/EC – the ‘utilities directive’

[2] Directive 2014/24/EU on public procurement, and Directive 2014/25/EU on procurement by entities operating in the water, energy, transport and postal services sectors


[4] Grandia J., Implementing sustainable public procurement: An organisational change perspective. (Erasmus University Rotterdam, 2015)

[5] Semple, A. “The Link to the Subject-Matter: A Glass Ceiling for Sustainable Public Contracts?”. In Sjåfjell, B., & Wiesbrock, A. (2016). Sustainable public procurement under EU law: new perspectives on the state as stakeholder. Cambridge University Press.

[6] Idem

UN-Habitat is supporting cities to develop evidence-based public space policies and strategies through a community-led initiative.

UN-Habitat is supporting cities to develop evidence-based public space policies and strategies through a community-led initiative.


Quality public spaces are a vital business and marketing tool as cities increasingly compete to attract investment, new residents, businesses, and visitors. As urban population grow, the effective management and sustainability of this growth including the needs and demands of the citizens especially the most vulnerable becomes critical. While cities and local governments recognize the importance of public space and have made efforts to use public space to transform their cities and neighborhoods, these efforts have been primarily site based. These site-based approaches can be scaled-up to many sites across the city but cannot provide distribution, connectivity, accessibility, or programmatic diversity of public spaces. Little effort has also been made towards developing city-wide public space strategies[1] and particularly involving the public in the development of policies. Without this city-wide approach to public space, there has been a growing trend on privatization, grabbing of public land, disappearance of public spaces and eventually creating inequal and segregated cities.

National and local governments need to recognize the role of good quality network of public spaces as a promoter of equity and prosperity. It provides the best means to manage urban growth, support economic development, protect the environment, and promote overall well-being of communities. However, this can only be achieved when cities correct imbalances in public space supply, distribution and quality in different neighborhoods and settlements within the city. Notably, during the COVID 19 pandemic, public and green spaces have become critical areas for containment, testing and for decongesting crowded markets. They offered the much-needed refuge where individuals can be in public, while safely practicing social distancing measures outdoors. More than ever, it has become critical for cities to understand the state of their cities in terms of the spatial distribution and quality of their public and green areas

To support local governments to include a network of public spaces as part of their development plans, UN-Habitat developed the city-wide public space inventory and assessment tool. This tool has been designed as a flexible framework to aid local governments and partners working in public spaces to assess the network[2], distribution[3], accessibility[4], quantity[5], and quality[6] of their public spaces in a cost-effective way. The tool takes a participatory and communityled approach that aims to determine priority areas and sectors of intervention – both spatial and non-spatial– that government and private entities can take to address them.  

“The global community agree that public spaces play a key role in achieving inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable cities and human settlements. This means that interventions in public space can support achievement in several other targets within the 2030 Agenda and commitments within the New Urban Agenda. Since the monitoring of SDG 11.7[7] and the public space commitments in New Urban Agenda are done at the city level, this city-wide public space assessment tool also supports local governments to report their progress towards achieving these commitments.”

About the tool

The city-wide public space inventory and assessment is a digital tool developed to assess public spaces in cities and identify gaps for the development of long-term public space strategies and policies. It utilizes a digital questionnaire that can be contextualized to fit different contexts and priorities. Therefore, the assessment could either be formulated to capture the broad and diverse aspects of public space or it can emphasize certain thematic or geographical areas. Application of the tool provides a basis for the actual state of public spaces in the city; that includes the state of public space, the problems, and their causes. Mapping of the supply, quality and distribution of public spaces are important, in order to determine priority areas and sectors of intervention, this included institution,financial and regulatory frameworks. It also identifies where public spaces may be lacking, areas where there might be over provision, poor quality public spaces or poorly located public spaces and where there are opportunities for improvement to meet the local needs. This approach supports the development of evidence-based policy, regulatory and spatial strategy development as well as provides a potential to reorganise institutional set-up and financial mechanisms within the city.

A city-wide public space assessment can be commissioned by a local government due to several reasons, which could be:

  1. A city might not have an inventory of their public spaces.
  2. A city would like to develop a new public space strategy or update an existing public space strategy[8].
  3. A city would like to revise their institutional, legal, and regulatory frameworks and understand where to allocate funding more efficiently.
  4. A city would like to tackle emerging issues such as climate change, safety, biodiversity loss, unplanned urbanization, encroachment of public spaces, heritage loss, accessibility among others.

Once the objective of the assessment has been developed, it is crucial to understand the spatial scale of the assessment within cities. The public space assessment could cover 2 different scales: the administrative boundary[9] and the urban extent[10]. In some instances, the assessment could be designed for specific neighborhoods/geographical areas within the city. This could be in the case where the city would like to pilot and test the public space assessment tool and methodology in the city or where the neighborhood has an independent government body and would like to develop strategies for their neighborhood. The geographic scope and the overall objective of the assessment are set prior to undertaking the assessment.

The Approach:

UN-Habitat works with different city governments and partners in conducting city-wide public space assessments in their respective cities. The model is flexible and dependent on the capacities of the local government and partner.  The city-wide public space assessment tool ensures the active participation of the community through the process from formulation of the reference group, development of the assessment to proposing policy and strategic recommendations for the city’s public spaces. 

The process of conducting a citywide public space assessment has been designed into four parts that are progressive with outputs that are as important as the process and social inclusion being considered at all stages of the process. The process includes (i)pre-field work, (ii) data collection, (iii) reporting and (iv) post city-wide assessment. Each of these parts has steps that should be followed with activities, tools and inspiring cases that are drawn from partners and UN-habitat’s experiences working in cities. UN-Habitat recommends that each city follows the process to guarantee long-term appropriate provision, quality and accessibility of public spaces. However, it recognizes that cities are different with different capacities and are at different stages of development. Therefore, depending on the objective of the city and the level of public space provision there are certain steps that are not mandatory to undertake.

Figure: City-wide public space assessment process.

NOTE: The process is modified depending on the needs and capacity of cities. 


Since 2015, the tool has been regularly updated with feedback from its application in a variety of urban contexts. It has been applied in 30 cities and engaged approximately 1,750 data collectors with every city having different thematic entry points such as children, safety, markets, women, heritage etc. 

Through the application of the tool, 40 training sessions to local governments, community members and volunteers have been conducted on the use of the tool but also the importance of public space and the need for data and participation for policy and strategy development. There have been over 25 visioning workshops to develop recommendations and strategic interventions for the cities. There has also been a keen interest by other cities to use this tool for their own citywide public space strategy work. The tool is also key in monitoring and reporting on SDG 11.7 as well as toward the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.

Protecting public spaces in Jianghan, Wuhan, China

In 2017, UN-Habitat supported Wuhan Lands Use and Spatial Planning Research Center to undertake a district-wide open public space inventory and assessment. This came at a time when public spaces in the district were being commercialized and threated by the expanding city structures. A training was done for the local government, Wuhan Land Use and Spatial Planning team and data collectors. The result of the city-wide public spaces assessment showed that Jiaghan district falls short of standards set by the National Ecological city of 11m2/capita as well as the international standard of 9m2/capita. Total green public space was just 2.2m2 per capita. Being the densest and least spacious district in Wuhan, Jianghan has to find innovative ways to counter this trend. Moreover, the increase of urban environments in Jianghan District has left public spaces to be derelict and therefore decreasing public space’s function.

The city-wide public space inventory and assessment in Jianghan identified gaps in the safety, accessibility and inclusivity of public spaces. Therefore, in 2018, UN-Habitat identified public spaces that require upgrading and the areas within the district that needed new public spaces to be created. Spaces that required upgrading were identified through an aggregate of indicators and UN-Habitat prepared a map of priority public space for improvement. It was noted that 21% (29) of all public spaces require the most improvement while 29% (41) require the least improvement measures. A spatial analysis of the distribution of public spaces in Jianghan was done and the areas that required new public spaces were identified to be at the periphery of the district accounting for 18% (4.9 km2) of the total area of the district.

These results led to the development of a public space strategy for the district, with an ambitious vision of having “Public Spaces in Jianghan District to be of High Quality, More Accessible, Unique and Diverse.” This vision came with clear goals and objectives to achieve it. To achieve these goals and objectives, a phased implementation was proposed, combining near-term (2017-2022) and long-term (2023-2030) development projects. These was to ensure that upgrading of public spaces to enhance their quality was supported by a long-term green network plan in the district. One public space was selected for upgrading and was implemented in 2018. UN-Habitat together with WLSP will monitor and evaluate the achievements of this strategy.

Image: Data collector interviewing older persons in a public space in Jianghan, Wuhan, China © Wuhan Landuse and Spatial Planning Research Centre. 

Case Study 2: HAYA” Programme “Eliminating Violence Against Women in the West Bank and Gaza Strip

To support the “HAYA” Programme “Eliminating Violence Against Women in the West Bank and Gaza Strip”, UN-Habitat in collaboration with Ministry of Local Government, the community, academia and private sector to conducted city-wide public space safety audits in five cities in Palestine; Khan Younis, Jenin, Nablus, Jericho and Bethlehem Cluster of Ad Doha, Beit Sahour, Beit Jala and Bethlehem. The aim was to understand women’s and girls’ safety concerns in public spaces and to develop city-level public space strategies that will feed into the national public space policy development process. 

 Through the participation of over 150 active members of the local community including women associations, journalists, local NGOs, International NGOs, handicapped related associations, Ministry of Education, and youth activists; in addition to UN-Habitat, municipality, other municipalities, and representatives of local universities, recommendations were made for each city. Public space strategies that are proposed for Palestine Territory to promote safety and enhance social cohesion include; 1. spatial (reducing spatial inequality by ensuring public spaces are equally distributed within the cities),  2. social (re-integration strategies such as improving public spaces and creating shared spaces by reducing car movement, promoting diversity and social programming in public spaces to reduce perception of unsafety and increase “eyes on the street”, improving infrastructure to support the active use of public spaces) and 3. promote good governance (provide for rules of use in public spaces and apply penalties for all forms of violence against women in public space and ensuring maintenance of public spaces in order to avoid them being perceived as abandoned and thus attracting crime and antisocial behaviour). Public spaces were also prioritized for upgrading based on these assessments and it will lead to the development and regeneration of five safe and inclusive public spaces in the targeted Palestinian Cities.

Key Lessons and Transferability

Through working in these cities and towns, UN-Habitat has considered how the city-wide public space can deliver more value for cities. Preliminary generic approaches that a city can take prior to conducting a city-wide public space assessment includes:

  1. Securing political support to provide the mandate to execute the process for buy-in and allocation of both financial and human resources. UN-Habitat has found that without the support from the local government, the public space assessment reports remain a shelf report without informing the public debate or influencing the development community. The success of the public space assessment conducted in 5 cities in Palestine and in 4 Provincial Districts in Kabul, Afghanistan was a result of direct endorsement by the local and national government. 
  2. Enhance synergy among actors in public space, including municipal government agencies, the private sector, NGOs, women’s groups, community members and others. The city-wide public space assessment is not a task for one individual stakeholder and an inclusive partnership is an important mechanism for its implementation and success. This should be built upon a shared vision and principles that places public space and people at the centre of planning. In all the cities we have worked conducting the assessments, a training is organised for targeted city officials from different departments within the local authority, representatives from academia, NGOs and community members. This orientation provides them with an overview of the activities and how they can align it with their already existing or planned activities. In Johannesburg and Durban, South Africa the Social Affairs department and the Police saw the importance of conducting hot spot analysis for safety to understand where and what type of safety concerns are present to be able to act upon them. In other cities, this continuous engagement has led to greater synergies among partners within the city eg, in Nairobi, Kenya, the process led to the creation of a Public Space Network that is active with over 60 members who support implementation of public space projects, leading urban design competitions and other public space initiatives.
  3. Build the capacity of local partners. We have found in cities where we have worked,there is little capacity to conduct the survey and report on the findings from the city-wide public space assessment. This leads to a lack of accountability and responsibility for taking the findings towards a long-term plan for the city or align it to already existing plans.
  4. Increase funding from sources other than municipal government, such as from the national and provincial governments, donor agencies, the private sector and the public. The task of conducting a city-wide public space assessment requires financial resources to conduct the field study and draw out findings that are useful for strategic and policy change. It also identifies public spaces that require upgrading and areas within the city that need prioritisation for the creation of new public spaces. Often, the cities do not have the financial and human resources to implement all the recommendations and therefore creating opportunities and incentives for private sector involvement could be an added advantage.
  5. Create enabling institutional and regulatory frameworks to accelerate public space development. In Nairobi, Kenya we supported the establishment of a public space unit under the urban planning department where the document and its implementation could be anchored. In other cities such as Kabul, we provided recommendations for institutionalising public space within the local government, to ensure its planning and implementation.
  6. Focus on the overall urban area rather than a small area of the city. In some cities, such as Durban, South Africa we supported in piloting and testing the methodology in the Inner City and Ward 21. However, the recommendations remain for those areas rather than the overall city. Therefore, these cannot be implemented at a city scale and long-term strategies cannot be developed based on findings from only those areas. It is recommended that cities plan to conduct the assessment for the whole urban area to provide comprehensive strategic recommendations. In some cities, however, where the small urban area has an independent local authority, e.g, Wuchang District in Wuhan,China the recommendations can be implemented within the geographical scope.
  7. Ensure an action-oriented process and connect strategic thinking to project implementation. In Jianghan, Wuhan, China, from the findings of the district-wide public space assessment and together with the local partner, we developed strategic priorities and made a road map for implementation. However, the recommendations were not synchronised within the municipal/district work plan and a detailed action plan was not developed, therefore, the implementation of these recommendations remains fluid. 
  8. Balance external influences (political, economic, environmental and social cycles) and long-term ownership of the process.  Without a clear vision for public space, it is difficult to minimise external influences. A written vision is important for the orientation of public space. The strength of it is the fact that it has been debated and discussed and aligned with city development plans and policies and the actual state of public spaces based on results from the city-wide public space assessment. This can help keep the city’s public space planning on track, despite political or other changes. It helps avoid priorities being set in an ad hoc way by reacting to external pulls and pushes


It has become evident, through the application of this tool in 30 cities, that the task of planning and designing city-wide networks of public spaces is not only to deliver equity in spatial distribution and gain from the wide benefits that public spaces have but must also simultaneously design frameworks that will allow those plans to take place effectively and democratically. The process must therefore be anchored on a firm understanding of the role of stakeholders and the socio-political context where these plans and designs take place, but more importantly, should stem from the voices of those these plans are supposed to serve.

Participation is one of the tools that can limit bias in the planning public space. The city-wide public space assessment tool has therefore been anchored within a flexible framework where local governments are able to design new relationships between civil society, the private sector and communities and understand the state of public spaces, gaps and opportunities in the legal and institutional systems, existing forms of partnership and financing mechanisms to develop inclusive and evidence-based city-wide public space strategies. The tool is also applicable in varying contexts and can be adapted to fit priorities of a city and has shown that the inclusion of communities as key stakeholders in the planning process is necessary if actions towards acceptable or desired outcomes are to be met.

[1] City-wide strategies: Compendium on inspiring practices

[2]  A system of public spaces

[3] Spatial balance of public spaces across the city

[4] Spatial accessibility of public space to the population within walking distances

[5] Proportion of urban surface devoted to public spaces

[6] Main design features, operation, and management (comfort, universal access, use, users, amenities and green)

[7] By 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive, and accessible, green, and public spaces, particularly for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities

[8] Public space strategies can range from thematic ones such as public space and health strategy, by typology such as a park strategy, or an activation strategy for public spaces or public market strategy. They can also be ambitious and incorporate several themes and typologies. This is, however, dependent on the objective of the city

[9] In this case, cities are able to develop strategies within clearly defined jurisdictions. It also becomes easy both in terms of gathering statistics and politically. Additionally, administrative units are frequently those for which policies are implemented.

[10] It is important to note that in some contexts, urban extents go beyond the administrative boundary of the city and may include other cities/jurisdictions. Therefore, a clear governance structure needs to be set-up.