Public Lecture: Characterizing environmental inequality in African cities. Professor Samuel Agyei-Mensah

The cities of the African continent contain diverse populations and environments. Diversity in African urban environments is evident in urban morphology, access to potable water and sanitation, air quality, transport facilities, and green space. Several factors account for these diversities including remnants of colonial planning, postcolonial development policies, the impact of neoliberalism and globalization, population growth and urban expansion, and enormous wealth differentials.

Despite abundant scholarship on African cities, neighbourhood environmental inequalities have attracted little attention. In this lecture I portray the diversity of African urban environments through a case study of Accra, Ghana’s capital city.  My portrait takes inspiration from Hippocrates influential ‘Airs, Waters and Places’ as well as the UN Sustainable Development Goals.  Drawing on population census data, remote sensing and satellite imagery, as well as citizen science, I analyse neighbourhood variation in access to water and sanitation, air quality, transport and green space.  The analysis reveals that economic segregation is a dominant factor underlying neighbourhood environmental differences, and that this operates through several social markers, one of which is the persistence of the effects of colonial and post-colonial engineering. An overarching conclusion from this case study is that disparities at the neighbourhood level are a fundamental feature of African urban environments.

Samuel Agyei-Mensah is Provost’s Visiting Professor of Population Health at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Imperial College London. Professor Agyei-Mensah’s research focuses on Population and Health Geography, with particular concern for the difference that space makes to environmental and population health. He holds a position as Professor, Department of Geography and Resource Development, University of Ghana. He was elected to the Fellowship of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2022, and appointed Professor Extraordinary, Stellenbosch University, South Africa in 2023. Professor Agyei-Mensah has served as visiting lecturer/guest researcher in many universities across the world including Norwegian University of Science & Technology, Norway, University of Canterbury, New Zealand, University of Flensburg, Germany, Ohio State University, USA, and Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden.

A drinks reception will follow the lecture on Skempton Concourse level 2

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