City regions

Regional pilot project: WASH sector, Greater Accra (Ghana)


Visioning, planning and building resilient cities requires a holistic understanding of the status quo and the future state desired by citizens and city stakeholders across sectors. The use of robust data as an evidence-base upon which to build business cases is fundamental to deciding upon the most appropriate course of action, creating the right innovation and procuring the best possible delivery services.


Greater Accra, Ghana was chosen as one of eight cities in four African countries upon which to build the business case for investment in future proofing “Future proofing is about cities looking in an integrated way at the risks they face and developing solutions which can catalyse inclusive urban development, maximise value for money, and provide a foundation for broader urban transformation. The focus of future proofing is on cities finding and shaping their own vision of the future by providing them with the tools and approaches to identify solutions which respond to their unique set of risks, vulnerabilities, and capacities”.

The UK Department for International Development funded the pioneering development of the integrated systems modelling at city scale under the Future Proofing African Cities for Sustainable Growth project.   The core of the model, a data-driven platform combining comprehensive database, agent-based simulation and resource technology network optimization, was developed to support real-world decision making and a transition to sustainable cities and communities. In this case study, systems level water, sanitation and energy planning was the focus.

Fostering innovative multi-sector partnerships – Collaboratory

To ensure the single sector model prototype was fit for purpose and deemed useful and relevant to local stakeholders, integrated systems knowledge and capacity in civic institutions and across key city stakeholders was built in three stages:


  1. By holding an inaugural workshop to engage across sectors, assess stakeholder needs, and plan for success.
  2. By convening an expert technical working group, the Collaboratory, who were lead on  a learning journey in integrated systems planning and decision-making
  3. By co-creating the solution with city stakeholders – accessing existing data, analysis, results verification and the definition of locally relevant case studies to illustrate model capabilities.

Seven interactive webinars tracking the development, the building of knowledge and Ghanaian input to the model were delivered with global technical expert presentations from the UK, Netherlands, China and Ghana covering:

  1. functionality; WASH sector preliminary data overview
  2. Geographic data and tools for urban planning; agent based systems modelling; resource technology modelling
  3. Spatial data and building blocks for
  4. Case study development and triangulation of appropriate metrics
  5. Data collection
  6. Results calculations and assumptions for; policy briefings and private sector perspectives on the applicability of the model
  7. Collaboration and the financing of resilient infrastructure

Through in-country and remote support, a strong network of >100 individuals from government, private, academic and community sectors was built.

Data & modelling

Model development

  • Full set of specification documents –
  • 50 Process blocks developed that  describe input output, energy, material  and labour
  • Computer modules built and tested
  • ABM & RTN
  • Three use-cases developed within the collaboratory to demonstrate functionality and benefits leading to an investment strategy for 100% access to  clean water and affordable sanitation
  • Visualisations for decision support and  basic user interface


  • 200 plus data sets collected that  describe WASH in GAMA as well as  socio-economic, GIS, process and  technology

Use of the model (Wang et al., 2017)

  1. Various socio-demographic characteristics (e.g. gender, age, workforce status, and income levels) as well as locations and access to infrastructure (e.g. home and work location, water pipeline access, and electricity grid connection)
  2. All calculations are carried out for an individual year, and the next year takes into account the changes from the previous year. The factors considered include population birth, death, and ageing, immigration and emigration changes, and employment growth.
  3. Behaviour, differentiated by individual characteristics, leads to demands for water, energy, and generation of wastes, which can be tracked every 5 minutes over any long-term period, per population, per district.
  4. Available existing service infrastructure, water and energy use (addressed through material and energy balance) plus new technologies are included in the calculations upon which scenarios can be built with regard to investment in new services or technologies.
  5. Most importantly, the economic and environmental costs including capital expenditures (CAPEX), operational expenditures (OPEX), and revenues collected from operating these systems, as well as environmental impacts such as greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are obtained directly from the optimal results for development strategies.


Enabling actions to support resilience investments

The local specification of the model and ownership of its use enables national plans and priorities to be inbuilt from the outset.  Relevant ministries with jurisdiction over the provision of goods and services for citizens joined the Collaboratory to use as the repository from which to access planning and design relevant data and information.

Once results were analysed, the Collaboratory disseminated these to their relevant institutions who were then able to act on the collaborative intelligence according to their institutional / shared goals.

A number of water and sanitations solutions were then sourced for later investment by multilateral parties.

Evidenced investment options

The platform developed in collaboration with local city stakeholder enables them to plan resilient and sustainable development. The current regional demographics, infrastructure and economic information is used as input for the initial state of the focused urban system incorporating energy, water and other related resources. Detailed spatial-temporal resource demand data, obtained by simulating a synthetic population, is further used to plan capacity utilization and expansion by supply side matching on a cost optimal basis, eventually aiming to explore the optimal design and operational strategies for residential, commercial, industrial, and other sectors with respect to water, energy and resource consumption. Moreover, long-term socio-economic scenarios are addressed in the process of urban systems development. The bottom-up approach allows the user to make changes to the scenarios together with local stakeholders and re-run the model to produce updated outputs easily, giving full flexibility to explore a range of socio-demographic, behavioural and technology scenarios.


The demonstration of the prototype was successful and importantly, contributed to a greater appreciation of the need for integrated urban planning approaches and tools. Indeed, the delivery of the prototype of met, and in some cases exceeded, expectations set within the programme logframe. The prototype collaborative working in Ghana elicited very positive and high-level advocacy and a strong demand to expand the prototype to cover all cities and regions in Ghana to support their 40-year development planning process with integrated and strategic planning tools.

Key learnings

The case study of Greater Accra, Ghana demonstrated the effectiveness of cross-sector / cross-silo collaboration from inception and the ability of each stakeholder to make more informed decisions in this open and trusted environment.  Simultaneously building capacity and knowledge was critical for the adoption of a tool based on integrated systems technology.

The applicability of the platform as a key tool to support evidence based planning for sustainable development and urban transitions.