Why local? Why now? Strengthening intermediary cities to achieve the SDGs

By Shipra Narang Suri, Ph.D. Chief, Urban Practices Branch, Global Solutions Division, UN-Habitat and Federico Bonaglia, Deputy Director, OECD Development Centre

Cities and local authorities around the world have played a key role in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, applying prevention and containment measures, providing swift humanitarian response, as well as taking the first steps towards post-pandemic recovery. They implemented nation-wide measures, but also experimented with bottom-up recovery strategies. Local authorities are an indispensable “ring” in the governance chain necessary to prevent and respond to pandemics and advance a One Health Approach.

At the same time, COVID-19 has spotlighted, amplified and exacerbated underlying structural inequities across cities, and the capacity and financing gaps facing local governments, especially in developing countries. The pandemic may have initiated or accelerated a shift towards a new urban paradigm of “inclusive, green and smart cities” but it is still too early to say whether cities in developing countries will be able to embark on this transformation. Confronted with massive increases in poverty and vulnerability, those objectives might look like less relevant, distant or even unattainable goals. Estimates from the World Bank and UN entities suggest that local governments may on average lose 15 to 25 percent in revenues in 2021. First-hand accounts from African mayors confirm they face phenomenal trade-offs and have to repurpose their scarce resources to advance a green transition to tackle the consequences of the pandemic.

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Why investing in intermediary cities should be a priority for a green recovery

By Michael Lindfield, Senior Consultant, former Senior Specialist at the ADB

Although the COVID-19 pandemic will change the context for investment decisions – including for climate investment in intermediary cities in emerging markets and developing countries – little has been done to detail these consequences. In general, consequences for financing institutions and cities may include lower inflows to institutions like pension funds and insurance companies, and increased pressure to buy government bonds and lower revenue base, thus reducing cities’ and other urban institutions’ ability to service debt and/or provide availability payments to concessions. Additional consequences include potentially lower emerging market and developing economy sovereign and sub-sovereign credit ratings (increasing the cost of debt), and curbed economic growth, thus curtailing the potential for cost recovery in relation to green projects.    

These consequences are likely to impact intermediary cities more than capitals or megacities because they have lower credit ratings and less technical capacity. However, there will be opportunities if climate investment is integrated into COVID-19 recovery financing, creating the right incentives for investors. The critical alignment relates to the perceived risk/return profile of investments. If the rate of likely return will be sufficient to compensate for the risks of investing, then private, institutional and commercial entities will invest, provided minimum regulatory hurdles, such as minimum credit ratings, are met.

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Fighting COVID-19 in Africa’s informal settlements

By Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN‐Habitat)


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


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Kibera informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: Boris Golovnev/Shutterstock

The COVID-19 pandemic has cost hundreds of thousands of lives in the world’s richest cities but poses an even greater threat to cities in the developing world. There are now more than 150,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus across Africa, in all 54 countries, with South Africa and Egypt the worst affected.

One of the most pressing concerns for Africa is that over half the population (excluding in North Africa) live in overcrowded informal settlements. In these areas where several people have to share one badly ventilated room, diseases such as COVID-19 spread fast and it is impossible to practice physical distancing whether in homes or outside. Continue reading

Helping Cities and Regions achieve the SDGs: Partnering for Decentralised Development Co-operation

By Jorge Moreira da Silva, Director, OECD Development Co-operation Directorate and Lamia Kamal-Chaoui, Director, Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities (CFE)

 

UrbanisationAll too often international aid is viewed through the traditional lens of nation states. A rich-poor relationship of a developed country providing a one-way flow of financial assistance to a developing country to address crucial development issues, whether they are societal, economic or environmental in nature. However, the impact of these problems is acutely felt at the local level and requires global collaborative responses at the subnational level. Decentralised development co-operation (DDC) – the exchange of resources between subnational governments in developed and developing countries – offers a pragmatic and effective approach to addressing the most critical issues and to achieving the sustainable development goals.

Following the onset of the Syrian crisis, Lebanon has had to provide adequate housing and basic services to over one million refugees, or nearly 20% of the world’s total Syrian refugee population.[1] At the forefront of this daunting task are municipalities, which in most instances critically lack the resources and funding to deliver. Continue reading

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

Visualising urbanisation: How the Africapolis platform sheds new light on urban dynamics in Africa

By Lia Beyeler, Communications Officer and Nisha Schumann, Consultant, Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat (SWAC/OECD)

Africa’s urban population is the fastest growing in the world. By 2050, Africa’s cities will be home to nearly one billion additional people. Yet, where and how Africa’s cities of the future emerge and evolve are insufficiently understood.

Traditionally, the focus has been put on larger cities as opposed to smaller urban agglomerations. Yet, smaller agglomerations with populations between 10,000 and 100,000 inhabitants represent one-third of Africa’s overall urban population, accounting for more than 180 million people in 2015. Their significance is highlighted by the fact that many of the continent’s future cities are emerging through the fusion of smaller cities or through population densification in rural areas – trends that are not captured in official statistics and government data, which tend to focus on cities as political units with defined boundaries.

The OECD Sahel and West Africa Club’s Africapolis platform, which launched during the 8th Africities Conference in Marrakesh, seeks to bridge the gap in data on African urbanisation dynamics. It provides a powerful tool for governments, policy makers, researchers and urban planners to better understand urbanisation’s drivers, dynamics and impacts. This understanding, in turn, will help design more relevant policies that address the growing challenges of urbanisation at the local, national and regional levels. 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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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