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Facts on African cities

The urban drift plays a key role in the rise of cities – cities likewise play an important role in economic development as a global phenomenon – and today over half the world’s population are urban dwellers, generating in some cases up to 80% of the country’s national production of income.

By 2025 cities will be housing over 4 billion consumers – a significant increase from 1 billion in 1990 – and over 2 billion of these consumers will be what is known as emerging market cities.

Global growth in urbanisation will be almost exclusive in Africa and Asia over the next 40 years and by 2030 Africa will be an urban continent with more that 50% of the population living in cities and by 2050 over 60% of Africans will be living in cities.

The emergence of the African city is the highest form of social organisation, often associated with advancing human development with cities incorporating economic, cultural and political factors. For instance Lagos in Nigeria has boomed from 300 000 inhabitants in 1960 to over 17 million today and Johannesburg is the largest city which boasts some of the richest mineral deposits the world has ever seen.

Africa’s future

By 2040 Africa will have the largest workforce on the planet, with consumers spending in urban centres expected to reach $2.2 trillion. On the other hand, key factors that may alter economic development in Africa’s future include; a rich demographic dividend and urbanisation – which together will drive modernisation and increase connectivity across the continent.

Currently, only three African cities – Lagos, Cairo and Kinshasa – fall within the true definition of ‘megacities’. This is category of cities that boast a population of 10 million or more. But, this is likely to change as the growth of African cities will be pushed to another level with Johannesburg, Luanda, Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Casablanca and Khartoum, which in future will fall into the ‘megacity’. Though these cities need an urgent boost in industrial growth and investment in infrastructure to address the influx of people and associated challenges.

Exciting prospects for African cities

The challenges that the cities are facing include; lack of resources, poor planning, inadequate infrastructure, health, safety, jobs, lack of houses and public services, which are much more acute in the confined space of cities and under the pressure of urban development.

Today, over 72% of urban dwellers in Africa live in slums with living conditions and safety far worse than in rural areas. This figure is around 40% in other developing regions. Africa’s enormous infrastructure deficit requires close to $100 billion a year to service adequate growth and service delivery – and to catch up with other regions of the world. Most of this infrastructure investment is needed in cities.

Exciting prospects for African cities lies ahead as opportunities are enormous and will contribute toward the effective management and development of rapidly expanding cities.

African cities are at the heart of the continent’s economic reconfiguration and are a key part of unlocking its future potential with new growth prospects around demography.

David Okwara

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