GIS for urban planning and City resilience 


Lagos, Nigeria with roughly 9 million inhabitants is the most populous city in Africa. Many other cities around the world are experiencing astonishing population growth.   

Over the last seventy years, the share of the world’s population living in urban areas increased from 30% to 56%. By 2050, an additional 2.5 billion people are expected to live in cities, mainly in Asia and Africa (data4sdgs). These cities are economic hubs, generating around 80% of global GDP, and are centers of political activity, innovation and economic activity. 

What is Urban Planning? 

Urban planning is the process of creating plans for administering and regulating metropolitan regions, cities, and towns. It measures and analysis the environmental and economic consequences of allocating resources in certain locations in a territory. 

With technological advancements, Urban planners use GIS both as a spatial database and as an analysis and modelling tool making it possible for better planning of resources. 

What is City Resilience? 

City Resilience is the capacity of city systems and their inhabitants to withstand calamities such as climate change effects, pandemics, earthquakes, etc. It involves protecting the most vulnerable city dwellers and making sure that they are not susceptible to natural or man-made disasters. 

City resilience leads to the ongoing continuity and sustainability of the system. 

Benefits of Using GIS for Urban Planning 

  1. Improved Mapping 

GIS offers the most powerful visualization tools in mapping. Planners can use it to prepare for service interruptions and map the efficient delivery of utilities. 

This information helps stakeholders make well-informed decisions. 

Planners can use GIS to have better access to maps, reduce storage cost, better thematic mapping, and improve map currency. GIS for urban planning can deliver superior mapping 90 percent faster. 

  1. Strategic Decision Making 

GIS is a formalized information system that is computer-based. It can gather and analyze data from multiple sources to deliver insights that help effective decision-making. GIS can help visualize changes in geography over a period. This can help professionals make well-informed decisions. 

GIS makes it easy for decision-makers to understand results by using graphic forms. Also, multi-criteria decision analysis can help with the selection of planning options by providing the necessary technical inputs. 

  1. Socioeconomic Data Utilization 

Socioeconomic data is often lacking and generally limited only to population census data, which is vital to regional and urban planning. The collection of data requires field surveys which are time-consuming and expensive. To store socioeconomic data, you can use GIS for urban planning. Environmental planning models that identify areas of development conflict and ecological concern can be created using the socioeconomic data stored in GIS. 

ESRI tools for Urban planning 

  • ArcGIS Pro 
  • ArcGIS Urban  
  • ArcGIS CityEngine 
  • A map of a city

Description automatically generatedArcGIS StoryMaps (for unpacking geospatial data and creating inspiring, immersive and engaging stories through combining text, interactive maps, and other multimedia content) 

3D scenario from ArcGIS Urban 

Case Studies 

  1. City resilience mapping using ArcGIS StoryMaps in South Africa: The City Resilience Program (CRP), established in 2017 as a partnership between the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR). Working with the CRP team, New Light Technologies Inc. has leveraged Esri’s ArcGIS StoryMaps to develop a dynamic and user-friendly way to map the resilience of cities around the world to natural disasters and climate change––piloting this approach through mapping climate resilience, planning, investment, and asset management in South African metropolitan municipalities.  
  1. Information for City Development, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia : GIS offers city agencies powerful tools to manage growth and redevelopment projects. Agencies use GIS to identify problem areas, quantify problems, and administer programs. City officials of the City of Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, decided it was time to take advantage of the potential of GIS technology. Up to this point, the city had been severely lacking vital information, thus hampered in its ability to create urban development plans, efficiently manage services, and collect tax revenues. City administrators began their project by developing a geodatabase that would eventually include various socioeconomic and housing status data on the City’s nearly 3 million residents and about 400,000 housing units. As the majority of the city was built in an unplanned manner with slum areas and illegal housing in every part of the City, the task was assumed to be massive. Thus, the work was organized under a project named “Information for City Development” and was overseen by the City’s Urban Works and Development Bureau (UWDB). 


According to the World Cities Report 2022, Global city population share doubled from 25% in 1950to about 50% in 2020, it is projected to slowly increase to 58% by 2070. In addition to that, it is projected that over the next 5 decades, growth in city land area will mostly take place in low income (141%). Issues that will arise such as housing availability, sustainability goals, and economic changes are compelling cities to better plan for the future. Using GIS ensures a robust planning process and informed decision making.