Urban Management in Africa Observed

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By Naison Mutizwa-Mangiza, Director, Regional Office for Africa, UN-Habitat; and
Marco Kamiya, Head, Urban Economy and Finance Branch, UN-Habitat, Global Headquarters in Keny


This blog is part of a series marking the 
19th International Economic Forum on Africa 


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Downtown Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: unhabitat.org

Africa is at a defining moment in its developmental journey. After experiencing 5% growth from 2001 to 2014, and a slowdown in between, the continent is projected to grow by over 3.5% in 2020 (UN, 2019). Continued economic progress presents opportunities for further accelerated, sustained, and inclusive growth provided that the right policies are put in place.

However, low productivity levels in manufacturing, services and the agricultural sector pose a major threat of economic stagnation with effects on African cities. Africa’s Development Dynamics 2019 by the OECD and the African Union Commission shows that Africa has a labour productivity ratio that is 50% lower than Asia’s and only 12% that of the United States. We believe that low productivity correlates with the quality of urbanisation. We define the quality of urbanisation as human settlements and communities that are able to capture the benefits of urban growth and expansion, quantified by more local and foreign investment, increased regional and international trade, enhanced revenues for local governments, better services for citizens and the activation of a virtuous circle where economic growth and welfare become self-reinforcing (UN-Habitat, 2017).

So, what are the most pressing needs of African cities to improve their quality of urbanisation? Below, we would like to share some general observations from our field projects that could serve to support policy design.[i] Continue reading

Data: The first step to improving finance in African cities

By Astrid R.N. Haas, Manager of Cities that Work, International Growth Centre


This blog is part of an ongoing series exploring the intersection between intermediary cities in developing countries and sustainable development


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Hargeisa, Somalia. Photo: Shutterstock.com

Many African cities are urbanising rapidly. Yet, they are unable to adequately service their growing populations with the necessary infrastructure and amenities due to a lack of finance. Furthermore, retrofitting infrastructure on a city that has already grown is significantly more expensive. Improving local government finance is therefore very high on these cities’ agendas.

Cities can improve their finances in various ways. Perhaps one of the most underutilised yet high potential methods is property tax. Why? Rapid population growth is generally accompanied by a construction boom, increasing the number of properties. Furthermore, if demand for properties rises faster than supply, this will also increase property values. And such values will further benefit once public investments in infrastructure as well as improvements in service delivery are made. All these factors have a positive impact on property tax collection, and thus have the potential to unleash a virtuous cycle for local government revenue.
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Disentangling urban and rural food security issues in West Africa

By Richard Clarke, Consultant, Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat

The rapid growth of cities in West Africa poses significant challenges across development dimensions. In particular, as the location of poverty spreads from rural to urban areas so have issues of food insecurity and malnutrition. Indeed, the potential impact of growing food insecurity in urban areas was highlighted by the widespread rioting over food prices in 2008.

The West African region is set to experience a further doubling of its urban population over the next 20 years, having grown from 6 million to 170 million between 1950 and 2015. This growth will place greater demands on regional food systems, which themselves are increasingly exposed to adverse global climatic and economic conditions, to provide cities with their nutritional needs.   Continue reading

The value of sharing experiences in urban redevelopment

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By Dr. Koki Hirota, Chief Economist, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)


Learn more about this timely topic at the upcoming
1st International Economic Forum on Asia
Register today to attend on 14 April 2017!


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A future image of the Cebu metropolitan area

Catastrophic floods and earthquakes have hit Asian cities such as Manila, Bangkok or Kathmandu in recent years more than ever before. Air pollution in Delhi, Dhaka or Beijing has turned more and more dangerous, threatening the lives of residents. All this as the international community agreed on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.” Responding to this call, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) decided to allocate 35% of its financial co-operation programme last year to urban development.

Why? Urbanisation in developing countries is happening fast. Ten mega cities of over 10 million people existed in 1990; that number increased to 28 in 2014 and is projected to reach 41 in 2025 (UN [2014]). Urban areas in Shanghai expanded by 8.1% annually between 2000 and 2010 and by 4.0% in Jakarta. Tokyo, in comparison, expanded by 0.2% (World Bank [2015]). Dhaka became a mega city in just 40 years from a population of 1 million. Many other Asian mega cities took only 50 to 70 years to reach that level, which is a much shorter time than what advanced economies experienced.

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A 4th level of government in Africa? Multi-level governance and metropolitan urbanisation

By Nicolas Ronderos, Economic Development Consultant

BWO_038In Togo, Lomé’s growth beyond its administrative borders makes delivering services and coordinating with adjacent localities difficult. A new metropolitan urban planning framework is being developed to address this issue. In April of this year the central government approved a plan for Grand Lomé that seeks to address urban, housing, transport and social services issues at the agglomeration level. The Grand Lomé plan seeks to coordinate among local urbanisation plans by providing an overall governance framework that enables coherence among local policies within the agglomeration and with other actors. [1]  Continue reading

Habitat III decisions crucial for the future of Africa’s cities

By Greg Foster, Area Vice-President, Habitat for Humanity, Europe, Middle East and Africa

habitat-3Africa will have some of the fastest growing cities in the world over the next 50 years. Unless something is done, and done soon, millions more will flood into unplanned cities and live in already overcrowded informal settlements and slums. It would appear as if the United Nation’s Habitat III conference, which happens every 20 years, and New Urban Agenda couldn’t come at a better time.

Habitat III’s goals sound simple — develop well-planned and sustainable cities, eradicate poverty and reach full employment, and respect human rights. Being able to leverage the key role of cities and human settlements as drivers of sustainable development in an increasingly urbanised world, the meeting will seek political commitment to promote and realise sustainable urban development. This could be a watershed moment for Africa’s cities. But critical challenges stand in the way of making Africa’s cities economic powerhouses, centres for exchanging ideas, and places that meld cultures and peoples. Three actions are needed. Continue reading

Integrating the local and global urban agendas

By David Simon, Director, Mistra Urban Futures, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden

In October, world leaders will gather in Quito for the Habitat III summit to launch the New Urban Agenda. This is on top of the start this year of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is odd that to date these two vitally important global urban initiatives led by the United Nations have been kept separate. It would be far more logical and extremely valuable, however, to link them by using SDG 11, the urban goal, as a monitoring and evaluation framework for the New Urban Agenda. A specific comparative urban experiment conducted last year could serve as a model for achieving just such a link.

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