Future Climate for Africa: Future Resilience for African Cities and Lands (FRACTAL)

Research impact Research impact

FRACTAL has supported the integration of climate change issues into the development and planning of cities in southern Africa and strengthened the capacity of researchers and city officials to access and co-produce climate information.

UK Funders:Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO – formerly DFID), Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) via Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
UK Investment:£3,960,144
Total Investment:£3,960,144
Project dates:2015-2019 (phase 1)
Lead InstitutionUniversity of Cape Town
Partner institutionsMet Office, Stockholm Environment Institute, START, ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute, Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, University of Oxford, Aurecon, CSIR: Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, US National Atmospheric and Space Administration, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, European Commission Joint Research Centre, City of Cape Town, City of eThekwini, City of Johannesburg, The Polytechnic University of Malawi, University of Eduardo Mondlane, University of Namibia, University of Zambia, University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of Witwatersrand, Lusaka City Council, Maputo Municipality, City of Windhoek, Blantyre City Council, City of Harare, Gaborone City Council
Countries of focus:Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe


Cities are complex environments made up of multiple interconnected social, economic, and environmental ecosystems. Dealing with the cross-cutting issue of climate change across these ecosystems can be a challenge for cities, particularly in terms of decision making. FRACTAL – Future Resilience for African Cities and Lands – looked at the complexity of decision-making spaces in nine southern African cities.

FRACTAL identified that while significant amounts of useful climate change research was being produced, very little was informing decisions in these cities. They found that firstly, not all the information was relevant to the city-regional scale at which decisions are made and secondly, decision makers had not had opportunities to engage with concepts of uncertainty associated with climate change information. FRACTAL set out to design new approaches to integrating climate science into decision making.

Underpinning Research

FRACTAL aimed to increase the climate resilience of southern African cities by supporting decision-making processes to include climate knowledge. FRACTAL took a three-pronged approach:

  1. Unpacking city-specific contexts, including urban climate change risks and impacts
  2. Understanding the decision-making space in cities and looking for opportunities to better incorporate climate information
  3. Advancing scientific knowledge and developing robust and scale-relevant climate information

To achieve this, FRACTAL implemented a number of approaches:

  • Transdisciplinary research: FRACTAL connected city actors to existing science through in-depth transdisciplinary research. Integrating perspectives of multiple stakeholders in knowledge production ensured its relevance and applicability.
  • Embedded researchers (ERs): FRACTAL funded researchers to occupy positions in local city council offices as well as at partner universities. The ERs drove in-city research and led learning processes.
  • Learning labs: Central to the ER’s responsibilities was facilitating learning labs. The learning labs provided the space and ‘level playing field’ for academia, civil society, and city officials to co-identify projects and co-produce potential solutions.
  • Climate risk narratives: FRACTAL used climate risk narratives not only to help interpret complex climate information, but also as a co-production device to support discussions related to climate risks.
  • Climate information distillation frameworks: These frameworks were used by FRACTAL teams to re-think how information is constructed to inform decisions, in a transparent and collaborative manner.
  • Inter-city exchanges: FRACTAL supported city-to-city learning through exchanges. These enabled teams to share experiences and knowledge, explore different approaches to dealing with risk, and co-develop solutions.

Towards Impact


  • In Namibia, through convening diverse stakeholders, providing training, and facilitating an interactive and evidence-based approach to policy development, FRACTAL supported the collaborative development of Windhoek’s Integrated Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan. Climate risk was integrated into the strategic plans using narratives and infographics developed through FRACTAL.
  • In Zambia, FRACTAL had ongoing engagement with Lusaka City Councillors in the development of Lusaka’s Water Security Action and Investment Plan (WSAIP). Lusaka’s Learning Lab process also culminated in four policy briefs, which were integrated into community training to support the implementation of the WSAIP.
  • In Maputo, Mozambique, FRACTAL led the co-production of an online tool to map vector and waterborne disease risks and help the municipality better anticipate disease hotspots. The tool was informed by engagement between researchers and city and national stakeholders, supported by the ER.
  • In Zimbabwe, as a result of city learning labs, workshops, and inter-city exchanges, the need for an environment management unit, with officers representing each city department, and a Climate Change Desk in the City of Harare was identified.
  • Dialogues analysing progress towards the Paris agreement goals and implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions (Talanoa Dialogues) were integrated into city learning processes in Lusaka, Zambia and Windhoek ,Namibia.


  • ERs, including early career researchers, developed increased knowledge of climate modelling and how climate science is used in decision making, built skills in transdisciplinary research and communicating with decision makers, and improved regional and international networks.
  • FRACTAL led the training of councillors in climate science in Maputo, Lusaka, and Windhoek, and of executives and senior managers in Transformational climate change leadership in Windhoek.


FRACTAL built a strong network of city and academic partners. These networks have mobilised resources for collaborative projects in the climate change field.