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N’Djamena, 3 Mar 14

Growth of cities, towns and villages in Africa is continuing unabated, further adding to the continent’s already significant urban challenges, a new report released today by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) says.

The report titled The State of African Cities 2014: Re-imagining sustainable urban transitions was launched by the Deputy Executive Director of UN-Habitat Dr. Aisa Kirabo Kacyira on the sidelines of the fifth session of the African Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development (AMCHUD) and succeeds similar publications in 2008 and 2010. The report is available from www.unhabitat.org

“Due to its still limited incorporation in the global economy, Africa has escaped many of the impacts of the global recession following the 2008/9 financial crisis, albeit that it has been affected by such indirect consequences as lower demand for raw materials and shifts in tourism. Nevertheless, economic performance has been robust in Angola, Ethiopia and Nigeria; while Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda are all experiencing sustained economic growth,” the report says.

Consequently, the publication notes, it is now projected that due to their growing middle classes, by 2030, Africa’s highest-performing 18 urban economies may have a combined purchasing power of USD 1.3 trillion. However, this prediction may be somewhat premature because, despite ten years of comparatively high Africa-wide economic growth, poverty remains a deeply pervasive phenomenon with about half of all Africans living on less than USD 1.25 per day and only four per cent receiving more than USD 10 per day.

On combat, the report says African countries have seen a decline in both sovereign and civil wars although there is a rise in urban violence. However, although fewer wars have contributed to improved African economic performance, there are indications that the decline in warfare has been accompanied by a rise in urban violence.

“Deadly protests and riots inspired by food and fuel price shocks, for instance, have swept through the continent in 2008 and in 2010. Ethnic and religious violence is on the rise in many cities. Terrorist attacks have increased in several African sub-regions. Organized crime is growing, and election-related violence has become commonplace,” it says.

On jobs, the report suggests that expanding green technologies can help reduce youth unemployment while, at the same time, reducing the ecological foot print of African cities.

“Africa is transitioning towards a whole new socio-economic and political landscape through rapid urbanization driven by massive population growth. But urban infrastructures, services, and land markets, as well as the urban economies, cannot absorb the newcomers to the cities, whether large or small, it says.

According to the authors, Africa’s populations are young and, by 2040, youth is projected to reach 1.1 billion. It will then be the largest labour force in the world, surpassing even those of China and India. This growing demographic youth bulge could drive Africa’s development and provide urban consumer markets of regional or even global relevance. But urban unemployment levels in Africa continue to be dangerously high, especially amongst youth.

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