Cape Town Time: 19:25 Fri, 22 November 2019

Resilient Cape Town

Building a more resilient Cape Town

The City of Cape Town is paying greater attention to its ability to respond and adapt to future social, economic and physical shocks and stresses. Building future resilience has been identified as a key priority in the City’s 5-year Integrated Development Plan (2017 – 2022). As phenomena such as extreme weather events and extreme poverty have deepened city challenges, Resilience has emerged as an important urban concept. Underlying resilience are the ideas of adaptive capacity (the ability to adjust to changing conditions) and transformative capacity (the ability to change both internally and externally to keep pace with changing contexts). Resilience is and will be an important characteristic of cities and their residents now and into the future.


One shock mitigated by the City recently was the effects of a severe drought, the worst in recorded history, brought o‌n by three consecutive years of meagre rainfall.

An illustration of the severity and quick o‌nset of the drought was that in September 2014 the collection of dams making up the Western Cape Water Supply System were over 100% full. Three years later (in September 2017), the same dams were o‌nly 37% full, placing Cape Town in a precarious position. By January 2018, dam levels had dropped to 26%, compelling authorities to impose more stringent restrictions.

Residents and business were called upon to significantly reduce consumption, which they did – proving their resilience and averting a full-on water crisis.

The city managed to reduce water consumption by more than half to 516 million litres per day in May – down from 1.2 billion litres per day in February 2015.


Cape Town is one of only a handful of African cities in the 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) network, an initiative pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation. In total over 1 000 cities applied to join the network and only 100 were selected.

The 100RC network helps cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social, and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century. 100RC supports the adoption and incorporation of a view of resilience that includes not just the shocks—earthquakes, fires, floods, etc.—but also the stresses – unemployment, poverty, lack of affordable housing – that weaken the fabric of a city on a day to day or cyclical basis.

Cities in the 100RC network are provided with the resources necessary to develop a roadmap to resilience along four main pathways:

Cape Town was successfully chosen to join the network in the third and final tranche of cities in May 2016. In March 2017 our Chief Resilience Officer, Craig Kesson, was appointed and since late last year the Resilient Cape Town team has been working towards the development of Cape Town’s first resilience strategy.

Cape Town’s membership to the 100RC network is seen as a recognition of the existing efforts by the city to ensure resilience and will provide the city with tools, partnerships and expert support to further strengthen and entrench the resilience of Cape Town.

Cape Town’s membership to 100RC sits alongside other global networks and partnerships such as the EU World Cities programme and the C40 network.


Applying a resilience lens leads to:

This is known as the resilience dividend—the net social, economic and physical benefits achieved when designing initiatives and projects in a forward looking, risk aware, inclusive and integrated way.


The Resilient Cape Town team has concluded phase 1 of the strategy development process by producing the Preliminary Resilience Assessment (PRA) for the city. This document is based on extensive research and stakeholder engagement and sets the context and framework from which the final strategy will be developed. This framework identifies the priority shocks and stresses that Cape Town faces and the priority areas within the city that the strategy will target to support and strengthen.

View Documentation

Alongside the PRA, the team also produced the first City Resilience Index for Cape Town. This Index provides a baseline assessment of the city’s current resilience and will be redone in 2 -3 years’ time in order to track the impact of the resilience strategy.