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Why Africa’s Rapid Urbanization May Not Be A Clear Shot To Prosperity

Why Africa’s Rapid Urbanization May Not Be A Clear Shot To Prosperity

Africa is the second-fastest urbanizing continent, second to Asia, but experts warn this will not translate to economic growth if the demographic shift is not accompanied by key infrastructure and policy changes to accommodate more people in cities.

Rapid urbanization is affecting many cities in Africa, where the working population is young, increasingly affluent, educated and career-focused, The Huffington Post reported.

As the younger population has more disposable income, they are relocating to urban areas and gaining more purchasing power. This increases demand for not only houses, but improved infrastructure, retail and commercial spaces.

According to the Africa Growth Initiative team, Africa’s fast and uncontrolled urbanization will present several challenges—such as housing informality, poor sanitation, crime—that can impede economic prosperity.

“There are no wealthy countries that are not urbanized, but there are plenty of urbanized countries that are not wealthy,” Brookings Metropolitan Policy research associate, Joseph Parilla, and senior fellow and deputy director, Alan Berube, say in a note in the Foresight Africa 2016 report to be released next week.

According to the report, Africa’s urban population will only represent 55 percent of the continent’s total population by 2050, compared to 64 percent and 86 percent in Asia and Latin America, respectively.

10 Million Threshold

To achieve a desired economic growth rate that will lift these urban dwellers from the poverty trap African countries will have to capitalize on urbanization and strive to become high-income urbanized nations.


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Many sub-Saharan and North African cities, including Johannesburg, Nairobi, Dar-es-Salaam, Khartoum, Casablanca, and others, are forecasted to have more than 10 million persons within the next few decades.

Lagos, Cairo, and Kinshasa are already considered “megacities” since they already have 10 million people or more.

Jérôme Chenal, senior scientist at the Urban and Regional Planning Community at Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne, says “urban management and planning” should not be confined to these megacities, but extended to mega these other “intermediate cities” where population lies below 10 million people, as urban growth there is most pronounced.

The United Nations estimates that two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, posing unique infrastructural challenges for African countries, where 90 percent of the growth is expected to take place.

This is not different from what Asia, including China, has been experiencing for the last few decades back, where has been a big shift of people from the rural areas to the cities, created a big planning challenge.

Chinese investments and its immigrants into Africa are helping shape urban cities in Africa as more African government look east for fund to pile into infrastructure spending. With these financial assistance the Chinese government also send in many of its experts, laborers and companies to assist in building roads, rail tracks and other urban related linkages.