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Urbanization In Africa Essay

3533 words - 15 pages







Africa is urbanizing fast. Its rate of urbanization soared from 15 percent in 1960 to 40 percent in 2010, and is projected to reach 60 percent in 2050 (UN Habitat 2010). Urban populations in Africa are expected to triple in the next 50 years, changing the profile of the region, and challenging policy makers to harness urbanization for sustainable and inclusive growth. Although many have written about the ...view middle of the document...

In addition, Africa’s literacy rates and institutional development indices are much lower than Asian counterparts, and Africa’s infrastructure lags behind.
Recent population censuses are providing more accurate data than has been available in the past. Among other issues, this new information will shed light on such questions as (a) the size and source of urban growth across African countries (Potts 2012; Gollin et al. 2013); (b) the role of rural migration versus natural growth in urban expansion (Fox 2012); and (c) the usefulness of growth models in explaining the longȬ term pattern of urbanization. The typical models of structural transformation explain urban expansion through the movement of labor from rural to urban areas that follow the transformation from agriculture to industry and services. Urbanization would be a result of either a “push” from agricultural productivity growth or a “pull” from industrial productivity growth leading to “production cities,” with a mix of workers in tradable and non tradable sectors.
Understanding African urbanization is highly relevant in other domains as well. Extreme poverty continues to be more prominent in rural than in urban areas (at least three times higher). Therefore, urbanization would seem to be a superior way to provide better services and livelihoods to millions, as well illustrated in the case of China (Taylor 2008). One may expect that over time, the gap between urban and rural earnings will decline and eventually disappear, as surplus labor shrinks and the rural sector modernizes. But it be quite a while until this occurs.2 As part of the process, one might stress the importance of governments providing basic services to smaller cities and intermediate towns that can facilitate the transition between rural and nonȬrural activities (Ferre et al. 2010), the mobility of labor, and the generation of economic activity. As in most developing countries, urbanizing Africa will face serious challenges, especially as policy structures adjust slowly (Henderson 2005). At the national level, integration of capital markets often occurs more slowly than labor market integration, which is facilitated by migration. Investment in infrastructure is woefully inadequate, institutional development lags, and the fiscal base is weakened by centralized processes. Urban management and planning needs to be strengthened to help cities plan ahead and avoid congestion, pollution, and the emergence of urban slums; but the track record of most African countries in this arena is poor so far. For this reason, the issue of urban management is at the core of the continent’s development challenge.

SubȬSaharan Africa is a collection of widely heterogeneous countries and cities with considerable differentiation in their patterns of urbanization. For example, there are 13 countries with urbanization levels above 50 percent, mostly oilȬproducing countries and middleȬincome countries. Seven countries have levels...

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