Africa’s cities of the fu­ture

Proper plan­ning key to sus­tain­able cities

Africa Renewal - - Africa Watch: Burundi - BY BUSANI BAFANA

With an an­nual eco­nomic growth rate of about 5% over the last decade, driven mainly by the com­modi­ties boom, African cities have seen sky­rock­et­ing pop­u­la­tion growth, forc­ing gov­ern­ments to face a host of de­vel­op­ment chal­lenges.

Africa is ur­ban­iz­ing at a rate of 4% per year, ac­cord­ing to UN-Habi­tat, the United Na­tions agency tasked with as­sist­ing na­tional pro­grammes re­lat­ing to hu­man set­tle­ments through the pro­vi­sion of cap­i­tal and tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance, par­tic­u­larly in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. Pop­u­la­tion shifts from ru­ral to ur­ban ar­eas lead to a num­ber of chal­lenges such as over­crowd­ing, pol­lu­tion and crime, among oth­ers.

“Ur­ban­iza­tion in the Africa of to­day is an un­tapped tool for de­vel­op­ment and eco­nomic growth,” says Joan Clos, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of UN-Habi­tat.

Over the next 15 years, cities in Africa will ex­pe­ri­ence higher growth rates than other re­gions of the world, pre­dicts Ox­ford Economics, a Bri­tish firm that spe­cialises in global fore­cast­ing and quan­ti­ta­tive anal­y­sis for busi­ness and govern­ment, with Cape Town, Dar es Salaam, Jo­han­nes­burg and Luanda be­com­ing Africa’s ma­jor eco­nomic gi­ants.

Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, the sec­re­tary-gen­eral of United Cities and Lo­cal Gov­ern­ments-Africa ( UCLG-A), a body rep­re­sent­ing over 1,000 African cities, de­scribes sus­tain­able cities as “cities of the fu­ture to­day,” mean­ing those that can with­stand the in­tense pres­sure from rapid de­vel­op­ment and ur­ban in­vest­ments but have a low im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment.

Eco­nomic growth and a rapidly grow­ing pop­u­la­tion of about 1 bil­lion mean more ur­ban­iza­tion in Africa than in any other con­ti­nent, with ma­jor cities in Africa cur­rently contributing about $700 bil­lion to the con­ti­nent’s GDP. This fig­ure is set to grow to $1.7 tril­lion by 2030, notes Ox­ford Economics.

UN-Habi­tat says rapid ur­ban­iza­tion, es­pe­cially in cities in the de­vel­op­ing world, is bring­ing chal­lenges in the dis­tri­bu­tion

of peo­ple and re­sources, as well as in land use, which leads to in­ef­fi­cient land-use pat­terns. Cities grow­ing hor­i­zon­tally are strug­gling to deal with in­creas­ing ur­ban pop­u­la­tions and are not likely to be sus­tain­able over the long term be­cause of chal­lenges with con­ges­tion, in­fra­struc­ture, pol­lu­tion and so­cial dis­ag­gre­ga­tion.

An in­crease in mi­gra­tion from ru­ral to ur­ban ar­eas can ex­ac­er­bate poverty and in­equal­ity as peo­ple pour into the cities in search of jobs and op­por­tu­ni­ties, strain­ing avail­able ser­vices such as wa­ter, trans­porta­tion and garbage col­lec­tion.

“Ur­ban­iza­tion, par­tic­u­larly in the de­vel­op­ing world, has been ac­com­pa­nied by in­creased lev­els of crime, vi­o­lence, and law­less­ness. Global stud­ies show that 60% of all ur­ban res­i­dents in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries have been vic­tims of crime at least once over the past five years, 70% of them in Latin America and Africa,” says UNHabi­tat’s web­site.

Women and chil­dren are of­ten the most af­fected, es­pe­cially when fear hin­ders their ac­cess to ba­sic ser­vices in the city. Crime and in­se­cu­rity in the city re­strict ur­ban so­cial and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, and of­ten jeop­ar­dize op­por­tu­ni­ties and poli­cies that sup­port the poor in ur­ban ar­eas.

Sus­tain­able cities

The need for sus­tain­able cities is par­tic­u­larly ur­gent, con­sid­er­ing cities gen­er­ate over 70% of global car­bon emis­sions. The one bil­lion slum dwellers world­wide suf­fer the im­pacts of air pol­lu­tion from in­door cook­ing, prox­im­ity to traf­fic and in­dus­try, con­tam­i­nated wa­ter and in­ad­e­quate san­i­ta­tion, among other en­vi­ron­men­tal health risks.

UN-Habi­tat sug­gests a three-pronged ap­proach to sus­tain­able cities, based on ef­fec­tive and com­pre­hen­sive ur­ban leg­is­la­tion, proper ur­ban plan­ning and design, and ad­e­quate fi­nanc­ing for projects. The three prin­ci­ples can be levers for the trans­for­ma­tion of cities and hu­man set­tle­ments into cen­tres of en­vi­ron­men­tal, eco­nomic and so­cial sus­tain­abil­ity.

Cli­mate change is a re­cent con­sid­er­a­tion in the plan­ning of sus­tain­able cities. Africa’s ur­ban en­vi­ron­ments are par­tic­u­larly sus­cep­ti­ble to flood­ing and out­breaks of dis­eases such as malaria. How­ever, these can be mit­i­gated through proper plan­ning, ef­fec­tive pol­icy im­ple­men­ta­tion, the pro­tec­tion of eco­log­i­cally sen­si­tive ar­eas, re­for­esta­tion and the use of waste in en­ergy gen­er­a­tion, among other mea­sures.

Given the eco­nomic and so­cial chal­lenges faced by many African cities, can they of­fer a high qual­ity of life for res­i­dents through the pro­vi­sion of ef­fi­cient ba­sic ser­vices while at the same time en­sur­ing that the en­vi­ron­ment is safe and clean?

“Yes, po­ten­tially,” says Mr. Mbassi, adding that this would re­quire a pace of de­vel­op­ment in Africa that should not nec­es­sar­ily re­sem­ble that of the West.

“We should plan cities ac­cord­ing to their spe­cific sit­u­a­tions and the needs of the lo­cal peo­ple, to en­sure that cities in­clude ev­ery­one and the poor are not marginal­ized in terms of ac­cess­ing all the ser­vices a city has to of­fer,” Mr. Mbassi told Africa Re­newal in an in­ter­view.

A new agenda

Work­ing with the UN Eco­nomic Com­mis­sion for Africa, UCLG-A de­vel­oped the Africa Ur­ban Agenda (AUA) to be adopted by African lead­ers in July 2016. The Agenda con­sists of ac­tions Africa needs to take to im­prove its cities and set­tle­ments and to pro­mote ur­ban­iza­tion as a cat­a­lyst for Africa’s struc­tural trans­for­ma­tion. It rep­re­sents Africa’s in­puts into the Global Ur­ban Agenda to be adopted at Habi­tat III, a con­fer­ence on hous­ing and sus­tain­able ur­ban de­vel­op­ment to be

hosted by UN-Habi­tat in Oc­to­ber 2016 in Quito, Ecuador.

Coun­tries at­tend­ing Habi­tat III, the first UN world sum­mit af­ter the adop­tion of the SDGs and the Paris cli­mate change agree­ment, are ex­pected to adopt the “New Ur­ban Agenda” for the 21st cen­tury.

It is clear that ur­ban plan­ning re­quires a shift from view­ing ur­ban­iza­tion mainly as a prob­lem, to see­ing it as a tool for de­vel­op­ment, UN-Habi­tat says in UN-Habi­tat Global Ac­tiv­i­ties Report 2015: In­creas­ing Syn­ergy for Greater Na­tional Own­er­ship.

At a meet­ing or­ga­nized by UN-Habi­tat and the Eco­nomic Com­mis­sion for Africa ( ECA) in Ethiopia in March 2014, called “The Role of Ur­ban­iza­tion in the Struc­tural Trans­for­ma­tion of Africa,” the di­rec­tor of po­lit­i­cal af­fairs at the African Union Com­mis­sion, Kha­bele Mat­losa, said that African coun­tries need to adopt new de­vel­op­ment mod­els de­signed to take ad­van­tage of ur­ban­iza­tion by fa­cil­i­tat­ing struc­tural trans­for­ma­tion, cre­at­ing jobs and ad­dress­ing so­cial in­equal­ity and poverty while cre­at­ing hab­it­able set­tle­ments with equal op­por­tu­ni­ties for all.

Start­ing smart to end slums

Although with good plan­ning ur­ban­iza­tion, in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion, sus­tained eco­nomic growth and hu­man de­vel­op­ment can be mu­tu­ally re­in­forc­ing, there is ur­gent need for safe set­tle­ments too, ac­cord­ing to a report by UN-Habi­tat, The State of the African Cities 2014: Re-Imag­in­ing Sus­tain­able Ur­ban­iza­tion.

Sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa has a slum pop­u­la­tion of 199.5 mil­lion, which, ac­cord­ing to UN-Habi­tat, is a sign of “a poorly planned and man­aged ur­ban sec­tor and, in par­tic­u­lar, a mal­func­tion­ing hous­ing sec­tor.”

Africa is home to big slums such as West Point in Liberia’s cap­i­tal, Mon­rovia, with more than 75,000 peo­ple, and Kenya’s Kib­era slum in Nairobi, which is the largest in Africa, with over 2 mil­lion peo­ple.

Africa re­quires around 4 mil­lion hous­ing units per year, with over 60% of the de­mand re­quired to ac­com­mo­date ur­ban res­i­dents. Ef­fec­tive plan­ning reg­u­la­tions and their en­force­ment will help cities deal with the growth of in­for­mal set­tle­ments and pro­vide a map for how the cities will grow and de­velop, while pro­mot­ing eco­nomic growth.

Panos/Sven Torfinn

A model of the fu­ture Ki­gali City. An am­bi­tious Ki­gali de­vel­op­ment mas­ter plan aims to turn the city into the ‘Sin­ga­pore of Africa’.

AMO/Rodger Bosch

Luanda, An­gola.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.