Celebrating Realities and Resilience: A glimpse into sub-Saharan African cities through photography

Published: 10 Jun 2024
General Success Stories
Celebrating Realities and Resilience: A glimpse into sub-Saharan African cities through photography

In every corner of Africa, the climate crisis leaves its mark, yet amidst the challenges, resilience offers hope. This duality formed the basis of the recent CoM SSA photo competition themed "Realities and Resilience". From bustling urban landscapes to serene corners of nature, photographers captured the essence of African cities grappling with climate change, while also showcasing their unwavering spirit of resilience.

The competition, open to all individuals over 18 residing in sub-Saharan African cities, invited participants to submit pairs of photographs. One image depicted the stark realities of climate change, whether through drought-stricken fields, polluted streets or vanishing forests. The second photo told stories of resilience, portraying communities taking proactive measures, like tree-planting initiatives or embracing renewable energy solutions.
Through the lens of these photographers, the competition offered a glimpse into the dynamic landscapes and the human spirit that defines Africa's urban centres. The juxtaposition of challenges and triumphs served as a testament to the resilience ingrained in African communities.
Participants were asked to adhere to strict guidelines, ensuring originality, consent for subjects, and alignment with the theme. From the bustling streets of Nairobi, to the coastal towns of Accra, entries poured in - each offering a unique perspective on the evolving climate narrative across the continent. 
The judging criteria emphasised not only aesthetic appeal but also the ability of the images to provoke thought and align with the competition's theme. Top shots have been featured on CoM SSA’s Instagram page daily, amplifying the voices of the photographers who captured the essence of African urban resilience. 
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Three finalists from each region will be given the opportunity to bid for a paid contract to capture more photographs of African urban landscapes and challenges, according to a specified brief. Four ‘winners’ (one from each region) will be awarded a contract and the title of "Visual Storyteller", facilitating their continued journey as visual narrators of Africa's evolving landscape. See the shortlisted submissions below.

Central Africa

REALITY: I took this photo in the Moba area of Tanganyika province in the Democratic Republic
of Congo as part of my photographic documentation of climate degradation
in the region, and it shows the deterioration of the lake. This pollution, caused by wastewater
discharges and the use of agricultural chemicals, is endangering the lake's biodiversity
and the health of the people living along its banks. The Congo River, which receives the
lake's waters, is also affected by this pollution
, threatening the entire ecosystem of the Congo Basin. - Bushiru Nathan (Congo)
RESILIENCE: Despite the difficulties that affect life around the lake, the women and
fishermen are not discouraged.
They continue to work hard to feed their families and enable their children to study.
They hope that education will give them the knowledge they need to protect the
environment and build a better future.
- Bushiru Nathan (Congo)






















RESILIENCE: Morro do moco is the highest point in Angola. It is located in Huambo province 
The local people are doing community work to care for the trees for the nursery.
- Vandilson Almeida (Luanda, Angola)

REALITY: Morro do moco is the highest point in Angola. It is located in Huambo province.
The local people are doing community work to plant trees for the nursery.
Which is useful because of the rare species of birds ???? that are only found in this
region. So the more tree plantations the better for the rare species of birds that live 
there, for their survival, knowing that every year these
​​​​​animals are slaughtered. So the more people who help with preservation,
the better for everyone. - Vandilson Almeida (Luanda, Angola)















From an abandoned house to a beautiful vase, despite climate change,
nature teaches us that reforesting the planet is the most effective solution
for combating climate change and has the potential to capture two thirds of the
carbon dioxide emissions produced by humanity. If we follow Mother Nature's
example and act now, this could reduce the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. 
​​​​​We need to protect the environment. - Jeronimo Felix (Angola)
 Oil rig, Soyo.  As well as contaminating water and soil, oil activity has two
dimensions: it causes climate change (globally) and it causes environmental
devastation (locally). Among the fossil fuels consumed, oil and its derivatives
play a major role in global warming, ​​​​​contributing more
than 60 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. - Jeronimo Felix (Angola)













East Africa

REALITY: Women are often excluded in making critical decisions around climate
mitigation and adaptation. Over the years, women have been regarded
as caregivers rather than given a chance to address some of the challenges
they face such as flooding and drought. ​​​They are the first
 respondents to climate change effects such as relocating children to
safe areas. The picture is taken in Kayole soweto and is
aimed at highlighting equity and equality when it comes to
climate change interventions such as
resource mobilization, advocacy, and awareness. - Peter Ndichu (Nairobi Kenya)
RESILIENCE: Informal settlements are often sidelined when it comes to prioritising climate change
Addressing livelihood challenges in slum areas is one way of mitigating climate change,
in that community members will feel more capable when it comes to responding to climate
change shocks. The picture depicts how a young man
in Mathare is searching for scrap metal from Mathare River
to sell as a means of making a living. 
- Peter Ndichu (Nairobi Kenya)















RESILIENCE: Planting and maintaining healthy forest cover
and vegetation in catchment areas can improve the
​​​​ground's ability to absorb rainfall, which
can reduce runoff and flood risks.
- Stephen Juma (Kenya)
REALITY: A resident in Mathare slum, struggling to navigate through floodwaters,
\embodies the resilience amidst adversity in informal settlements. Living along
rivers and water bodies, the community faces the recurring challenge of
floods during the rainy season, resulting in widespread property
damage and heightened vulnerability to waterborne diseases.
- Stephen Juma (Kenya)


RESILIENCE: Due to climate change, most farmers are experiencing declining 
yields and must cultivate deeper in the ocean. However, most of the women
cannot swim and some plots lie at long distances from the shoreline. They are
forced to wade out at sunrise, trekking through the shallows
when the tide recedes. - Teddy Mitchener (Zanzibar Tanzania)
REALITY: Since 1990, Zanzibar has become a primary
seaweed producer in Africa with women primarily involved
in the industry. However climatic changes observed in Zanzibar
are characterized by increased temperatures, increased winds, and irregular rainfall,
and these changes have negatively affected coastal seaweed farming
yields and quality. - Teddy Mitchener (Zanzibar Tanzania)





























Southern Africa 

REALITY: Drought effects increase the lack of food and water for animals, wildlife migrates to
different countries due to this. This lack can cause diseases to eventual
extinction of wildlife in the cities.
- Philadelphia Mahlamabane (JHB South Africa)
RESILIENCE: Groundwater declines during droughts causing poor crop produce. This
increases the effects of food security in communities. A community of
women forage irrigation to help their crops daily, in turn encouraging growth.
- Philadelphia Mahlamabane (JHB South Africa)





RESILIENCE: Amid a backdrop of a roadside illegal rubbish dump and political promises,
a young man carries used tyres for recycling, showcasing resilience in African cities.
Despite challenges, individuals strive to make a difference, symbolizing a
collective effort to combat the impacts of climate change and urban hardships.
This scene embodies the spirit of resilience and adaptation in the face of
environmental and societal challenges across Africa.
- Theus Badenhorst (Bronkhorstspruit South Africa)





REALITY: Amidst South Africa's coal-reliant power plants, coal trucks incessantly ferry fuel,
while industrial chicken farms burn coal nightly to regulate temperatures against
plunging Highveld cold. This juxtaposition illustrates the entrenched reliance on coal
and the consequential environmental impact as African cities battle the escalating
effects of climate change.
- Theus Badenhorst (Bronkhorstspruit South Africa)







RESILIENCE: Reclaiming the land using farming to fight climate change ,poverty and
creating job opportunities in making agriculture fashionable to the youth and
community at large.  - Xolani Ntuli (South Africa)














REALITY: Mother earth is desert with no trees to house the oxygen through her
I can't breathe. - Xolani Ntuli (South Africa)













West Africa submissions


Despite the brutal floods of the Kaédian winter, life goes on. With his feet up to his calves in water,
this population census officer continues his door-to-door work. Leaning out of his window to
avoid putting his feet in the water, this father replies with a smile.
- Ba Mouhamadou (Kaedi Mauritanie)
REALITY: The winter of 2023 has caused serious damage in the town of Kaédi. With climate
change, irregular and intense rainfall leads to flash flooding. Overnight, this street,
still dusty the day before, was drowned. A few hours later, there was no trace
of the clouds that flooded the town. - Ba Mouhamadou (Kaedi Mauritanie)
RESILIENCE: With the extreme temperatures in Kaédi between April
and June, the use of local materials in the construction of homes (such as banco),
like this site in the town centre, offers greater thermal comfort for residents.
Léo Brenet (Kaedi, Mauritanie)
With the extreme temperatures in Kaédi between April and June, the use of local materials in the construction of homes (such as banco), like this site in the town centre, offers greater thermal comfort for residents. Léo Brenet.
REALITY: The fishermen (Cubalo in Pulaar) of Kaédi have had to contend with a
drastic decline in fish stocks in the Senegal
River over the last ten years or so, as a result of a drop in the river's flow,
due to the effects of climate change, and the construction of
hydroelectric dams on the river.
Léo Brenet (Kaedi, Mauritanie)
RESILIENCE: Madam Ebun and her husband both old, have been collecting plastic bags and bottles
for years together, washing and cleaning it before taking it to recycle companies for a token.
Samuel Okechukwu (Lagos Nigeria)
REALITY: One of the major effect of climate change have been flooding.
Not just in informal settlements but also in formal locations.
This has also caused plenty migration as people tend to move away from
where they grew up and environment they've been use to.
Samuel Okechukwu (Lagos Nigeria)

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