Research & Innovation 2015-16 - Page 48

Thought leader
African urbanisation:
trends and prospects
The next two to three decades will define Africa’s urban transition, not least
because of the massive expansion in the number of people living in these
cities. Africa and Asia are the two most populous world regions, and the least
urbanised. While all regions globally are expected to urbanise further over the
coming decades, Africa and Asia are urbanising faster than the other regions,
and by 2050 are projected to become 56% and 64% urban, respectively.
African urbanism will be increasingly on the global development agenda,
specifically in light of the urban sustainable development goal (SDG) and the
New Urban Agenda (Habitat 3), write Edgar Pieterse, Sue Parnell and Gareth
Differential urbanisation trends in Africa
While it is important to have a uniquely African
perspective within the global debate on the New
Urban Agenda, it is essential to acknowledge the
diversity of African urbanisms. There is enormous
variation in the levels and rates of urbanisation across
the continent. Importantly, while much of the policy
attention in the past has focused on Africa’s primary
cities, much of the continent’s urbanisation is taking
place in smaller, secondary cities.
As the role of the urban in African development is
contemplated, there are four key issues that must
be considered.
The youth bulge: Fifty percent of Africa’s population
is presently younger than 19. This youthful population
points to continued population growth until the end of
this century. The ‘youth bulge’ means that Africa’s labour
force will probably treble between 2000 and 2050.
However, at present, just 28% of the labour is in stable,
wage-earning jobs. How will all of the new entrants into
the labour market be absorbed into stable jobs if the
current economic growth path is not altered radically?
Access to infrastructure: African cities are characterised
by poor infrastructure, coupled with under-capacitated
natural resource management. This puts poor urban
populations at risk, not just in terms of major events
associated with climate change, but also everyday
exposure to air, water and soil pollutants.
Despite recent positive economic growth in Africa,
the limited infrastructural footprint presents a binding
constraint to continued and high growth. The deficit in

New Urban Agenda (Habitat 3)

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