Water, Air, and Energy (WAE) Lab with the City of Cape Town

The City of Cape Town at Sunrise
Photo credit: Ava Peattie, Shutterstock.com

The Water, Air, and Energy (WAE) Lab is a collaboration between J-PAL Africa and the City of Cape Town to co-generate research and inform the scaling of evidence-based programs and policies that effectively improve access to clean air, water, and reliable energy for Capetonians.

WAE Lab is part of the Air and Water Labs (AWLs) — a global initiative founded by J-PAL and Community Jameel. The AWLs partner with government agencies in Egypt, India, and South Africa to co-generate evidence-based solutions for pressing air and water challenges.

Growing Populations and Climate Change are Straining City Infrastructure

The African continent’s population is projected to double between 2020 and 2050, with two-thirds of the growth happening in cities and urban areas. As urban populations grow, settlements densify, roads often become congested, and the additional demand for limited water and energy can strain infrastructure and compete to make the resources scarce. This creates new challenges for providing residents with quality basic services. Climate change, which disproportionately impacts people experiencing poverty, exacerbates these challenges.

As government officials seek innovative solutions to address these challenges, it is crucial to identify and invest in solutions that achieve their desired outcomes. Partnerships between local policymakers on the continent, who hold the local context and key ideas, and researchers, who can help co-design and evaluate these solutions, provide an opportunity to co-generate actionable evidence, enabling decision-makers to scale up solutions shown to be effective.

WAE Lab: Building on a Decade-Long Partnership

J-PAL Africa and the City of Cape Town have partnered for the past decade to generate evidence on key City policy priorities, including the use of prepaid electricity meters, leveraging administrative data systems for research, and more. During this time, Cape Town has experienced a severe drought and a strained national electricity grid. The City is responding to these crises proactively, and government officials are seeking innovative, cost-effective solutions to provide residents with access to reliable energy, clean air, and safe water. 

With strong in-house data systems and a long-standing commitment to evidence-based decision making, the City of Cape Town has the enabling conditions to test innovative solutions. Through the WAE Lab, J-PAL Africa and the City of Cape Town are committed to co-identifying and co-generating actionable research, working with decision-makers at the City and beyond to integrate evidence into policy, and to continuing to build administrative data systems in service of policymaking and research. 

The lab is an expansion of J-PAL’s King Climate Action Initiative (K-CAI), building on the foundational support of King Philanthropies to vastly grow J-PAL’s work at the nexus of climate change and poverty alleviation worldwide.

WAE Lab Partners

Community Jameel logo City of Cape Town logo

Key Facts


Environment, Energy, and Climate Change

Scientific Advisors:

Kelsey Jack


J-PAL Africa


RFP open and rolling



Margaret Andersen (Policy Manager)
[email protected] 


Request for Proposals

WAE Lab's early 2024 RFP for both full randomized evaluations and scaling projects is currently open. Expressions of interest are due February 29, 2024, and full applications are due April 4, 2024. Applications for proposal development grants and pilots are accepted on a rolling basis throughout the year.

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