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URBANIZATION OF AFRICA
Abuja, Nigeria - October 20-21, 2000
GCA/PF/02/10/2000
 

Introduction
I. Recent Trends in Urbanization
II. Challenges and Urban Realities
III. Prospects and Opportunities
Conclusion and Annex

Introduction

In recent years, most African countries have been experiencing an on-going and indeed accelerating shift of populations from rural to urban areas, a phenomenon with profound political, security, social and economic implications. Yet in many ways, this phenomenon seems to have taken the majority of African governments by surprise. As a consequence, many of the problems generated by rapid urbanization remain to be adequately addressed -- and many of the opportunities a well-functioning urban setting offers have yet to be fully exploited.

If left unattended, the problems of Africas rapidly expanding cities can have serious repercussions, not only at the municipal level, but also nationally, and in some respects even internationally. High levels of urban poverty, unemployment and crime combine to create a politically volatile situation that can easily erupt into civil unrest. Unemployed and disaffected youth can find populist rhetoric particularly appealing, presenting a challenge even to democratic governments. Inefficiencies in the delivery of municipal services affect popular perceptions of -- and faith in -- government, given that it is at this level that most citizens interact with governmental authorities. Dysfunctional, poorly-managed and inadequately serviced urban areas do not attract investment or create employment opportunities. Far from being engines of growth, such cities become a drag on development. Unaddressed urban problems also have spillover effects. Difficult conditions can induce people to move to more efficient, relatively safer and more prosperous cities in other countries. Lack of opportunity in African cities can also encourage onward migration to developed countries, sometimes illegally.

In contrast, cities that are well-managed, safe, and with a good skills base attract the foreign and domestic investment that are needed for economic growth. They can provide productive linkages to the international economy and allow countries to take advantage of the opportunities globalization brings. Historically and in other regions of the world, urbanization has been a driving force for innovation and advancement, spurring the economic growth that has fuelled development. This has not yet been the case in Africa, and it is incumbent on African governments to create the political and policy environment that will permit it to happen in their countries also. In particular, a clear vision and proactive policies relating to employment, economic development and local government are needed to ensure that urbanization contributes to growth and progress.

While many of the problems caused by rapid urbanization have to be addressed by individual cities, urbanization also needs to be seen in the overall context of national development. Decentralization, the promotion of secondary cities, and strengthened rural-urban linkages could help to broaden the geographic spread of urban populations. In addition, urban policies that improve security and service delivery, reduce unemployment and stimulate economic development will help to improve the well-being of urban populations, in particular the urban poor. For all of this, accountable, responsive and responsible government at both the central and local level is essential.

I. Recent Trends in Urbanization

Although urban centers have been established and evolving for many centuries in various parts of the world, the rapid growth of urbanization is a relatively recent phenomenon. Globally, the rate of growth of urban populations is around four times that prevailing in rural areas. At this rate it is expected that by 2025 about two thirds of the worlds population will be living in urban areas. The absolute number of people living in urban centers in 2025 will be double what it was in 1990.

Within the developing world, the least developed regions, notably Sub-Saharan Africa, are experiencing relatively faster growth in urbanization. However, this is a fairly new development. As recently as 1950, there were only some 20 million people, or 10-15% of the total population living in urban areas in Sub-Saharan Africa. The region then was the least urbanized and, in line with trends during colonial times, it was urbanizing only at a slow pace. This has changed considerably during the post-independence years. Since the early 1970s Sub-Saharan Africa has had the highest urbanization growth rate of all regions, averaging 5 percent per annum. As a result, the level of urbanization has dramatically increased to nearly 40 per cent today. This translates into an urban population of about 250 million, and at the present growth rate it is expected that fully half of the regions population will be living in urban areas by 2010.

As might be expected, the degree of urbanization is not uniform and there is considerable variation among the sub-regions of Africa. With about one third of their total populations living in urban areas, East and West Africa have comparable degrees of urbanization. Nevertheless, East Africa is urbanizing much faster than West Africa, and is the sub-region with the fastest growing urban population. Between 1950 and 2000 the percentage of the total population that is urban increased more than six-fold in East Africa. Southern and Central Africa are the most urbanized sub-regions, with the majority of their populations living in urban settlements. Of the two, Southern Africa is the more urbanized.

The rate of urban growth not only varies from one sub-region to the other. It also varies from one country to another. With approximately 60% of its population living in urban centers, South Africa has the highest urbanization level in Sub-Saharan Africa whereas at the other extreme there are countries like Burkina Faso, Burundi and Rwanda with urban populations of less than 10 per cent (see Annex 1).

Present Status of Urbanization

In nearly all African countries, there has been an increasing tendency towards concentration in a few relatively large cities, and in some instances into one major urban center. In 1960 there was only one urban center in Sub-Saharan Africa with more than one million inhabitants -- Johannesburg. Today, there are nearly 20 urban centers in the region with populations of one million or more and the number of such "millionaire" cities is expected to be at least 40 by 2010. Most of these are capital cities, and many are situated on the coast. The total population of these millionaire cities is estimated to be about 120 million people, which means that nearly half of the entire urban population of Sub-Saharan Africa lives in these major cities.

There are numerous examples of single-city dominance in the region. For instance, in Mozambique, Maputo accounts for 83% of the urban population, while the figures for Dakar, Lomé, Kampala, and Harare are 65%, 60%, 52% and 50% respectively. Nigeria presents an almost unique exception. It has regionally well-distributed urban centers, and in 1995 14 cities were each estimated to have populations of one million or more. At the same time, it has some of the largest urban sprawls, including Lagos in particular, with the attendant multiple challenges of governance, security, infrastructure and delivery of services. A particularly serious feature of Sub-Saharan Africa's large cities is the fact that significant proportions of their residents are living in substandard conditions in shantytowns and squatter settlements, a condition shared by cities in other developing countries.

Historically and in the developed countries in particular, urbanization more or less accompanied industrialization and was thus closely associated with rapid and sustained economic growth. For most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, rapid urbanization is taking place in an economic setting of negligible industrial growth and transformation. Moreover, the recent rapid rate of urbanization occurred during a period when economic growth was more or less stagnant and even declining. It has been estimated that between 1970 and 1995 Africas urban population grew at about 5 per cent per annum whereas GDP per capita hardly increased or even declined slightly in the same period. The result can only be described as urbanization without growth.

In yet another way past policies created more basic, structural problems. The significant migration of people to the larger urban centers, particularly the capital cities, in combination with the concentration of large cities along the coast resulted in a very uneven distribution of people and cities in a number of countries. Ideally, cities should have a close and mutually beneficial relationship with their hinterland. They can play an important role as a catalyst for development of the surrounding regions by acting as demand centers for agricultural products. In turn, they can serve as suppliers of manufactured goods, and as processing, storage, marketing and in-put supply centers for surrounding rural areas. This is more difficult to achieve when cities are far removed from the main agricultural producing areas.

Factors Affecting Urbanization

In line with broad historical trends elsewhere in the world, rural-urban migration constitutes the single most important cause of the rapid growth of the urban population in Sub-Saharan African countries. Migration from rural areas accounted on average for about 60 per cent of the urban population, and in exceptional cases could be as high as 75 per cent. As previously indicated, a considerable proportion of the rural-urban migrants went directly to the main city which in many cases is also the capital city -- rather than to small and medium provincial cities. This can be particularly problematic in small countries, where the dominance of the capital city can be overwhelming.

Although rural-urban migration may have many causes, two stand out. First, the poverty in rural areas, resulting from low agricultural productivity and accentuated by demographic growth, has certainly been one of the strongest reasons for the exodus to cities. In some instances, prolonged drought or other natural disaster exacerbated rural poverty and led to mass migration from rural areas. Second, in many, if not most, Sub-Saharan African countries rural areas are relatively under-serviced in terms of physical, financial, social and economic infrastructure. The all-round neglect of rural areas is reflected by, among other things, inadequate allocation of resources for operational expenses and investment in rural infrastructure, agriculture, schools and hospitals. Furthermore, inappropriate government policies, including state-controlled pricing and marketing of agricultural products pushed farmers and their families into the cities.

While from the point of view of their needs urban centers may be under-provided with essential services, provision of infrastructure and social services is much better than in rural areas. Thus, as a mirror image of the deprivation that motivates people to leave rural areas, the relative concentration of social services and potential employment opportunities in urban areas, in combination with the glamour of city life, constitute important factors that attract rural people to the cities. Clearly, this attraction is strongly influenced by the urban bias in public policies. In the post-independence years, recruitment into the civil service upon completion of higher level studies was virtually automatic and accompanied by substantial fringe benefits for civil servants. The concentration of public and private investments -- and hence jobs -- in the cities, all further enhanced the attractiveness of life in cities. For some migrants also, the relative anonymity and freedom from traditional social mores and practices that they found oppressive undoubtedly added to the appeal of urban areas.

The contribution of natural population growth -- which in itself is high in both rural and urban Africa -- to the growth of rapid urbanization is second only to that of rural-urban migration. The high levels of natural population increase may be explained by the presence of large numbers of first generation rural-urban migrants who bring to the city their rural habits and traditions concerning family size. Also, the availability of relatively better health facilities in the cities results in lower mortality rates and thus contributes to a higher growth rate of natural increase. In many countries, particularly those with already relatively high levels of urban population, it is likely that in the near future natural population growth will overtake rural-urban migration as the most important factor contributing to the growth of urban centers.

Finally, an increasingly important cause of the growth of the urban population in Sub-Saharan Africa is the recurrence and persistence of internal conflicts in a significant number of countries. In conflict situations displaced rural people flock to major cities, as exemplified by Maputo, Luanda, Kinshasa, Monrovia, and Freetown. The insecurity resulting from the collapse of law and order in rural areas forces people living in these areas to migrate to the cities in search of improved safety and security. These kinds of population movements are sometimes sudden, and as a result the migrants are forced to shelter in extremely precarious makeshift arrangements. Though originally thought of as a temporary situation, many people end up staying in these improvised and uncertain conditions for extended periods.

II. Challenges and Urban Realities

The rapid pace of expansion of urban centers in the context of slow or stagnant economic growth is in itself problematic. In most Sub-Saharan African countries, this is further compounded by the prevalence of a non-supportive and centralized political framework at the national level. Current urban realities pose a number of governance and financial challenges, including the need to address growing levels of poverty and unemployment, and improve security and service delivery.

Inadequate Devolution of Power

In most African countries, political and administrative power is still highly centralized, vis-à-vis regions, localities, cities and towns. Cities for the most part cannot make long-term plans and take major decisions on investment, or structural and institutional changes and reforms, without the clearance and concurrence of the national government. In any case, they are rarely delegated with adequate fiscal authority to raise the revenues to underwrite such long-term commitments. Moreover, most cities do not have adequate administrative and technical capacity to carry out their routine functions let alone the capability to undertake and manage long-term investment and restructuring. Hence, major policies, decisions and actions affecting cities have been controlled by central governments.

However, since rapid urbanization was taking place in an era of -- at best -- modest economic growth, many central governments were unable to finance the investment and upkeep of urban infrastructure needed for the effective and efficient delivery of basic services. Moreover, within the limited allocation of public funds, the nations capital was usually favored to the detriment of other urban settlements. In turn, this contributed to unbalanced urbanization.

Most African cities lack the financial resources to meet the needs of their current populations, let alone respond to increased demand. Indeed, the mismatch between urban growth rates and the resources needed to finance basic services and infrastructure is one of the most problematic aspects of urbanization in Africa. In most instances, there is urgent need to better manage existing resources, as well as to increase revenue. Because they often operate in a crisis mode, municipal authorities lack the flexibility to effectively target resources toward specific needs, or even maintain existing levels of services. Looking at the inadequacy of locally available financial resources, in many countries the revenue-side is characterized by insufficient financial transfers from the central government, limited recovery of fees for the use of public facilities, and significant tax evasion by individuals and businesses. It is estimated that community finances only amount to some 1% of the gross product of a typical large city.

In the early post-independence years, a number of countries attempted to define relations among the state, cities, regional and local authorities, within a framework of national and regional development planning. In practice, these efforts tended to promote and reinforce the dominant role of the state, and the central government as its instrument of authority. In such a centralized governance framework, it should not be surprising that urban development received little attention and inadequate funding. Moreover, excessive centralization and inequitable distribution of resources among regions inevitably led to population concentrations in a few, or even one, urban centers, thus leading to unbalanced development.

In recent years, many countries have embarked on political reform and democratization, with varying degrees of commitment, persistence and success. Partly as a result of this, there have been some initiatives related to decentralization of administrative and political power from central governments to localities, including major municipalities. In most cases, however, these political and administrative changes have not been accompanied by the devolution of appropriate fiscal power to enable local governments and communities to raise revenues to finance investment or meet operational requirements for physical infrastructure and social services. Also, limited administrative capacity and technical expertise were additional and largely unaddressed -- handicaps.

The management of cities was also negatively affected by the non-transparent election or appointment of "political" level municipal officials, including mayors. As a result it was increasingly characterized by cronyism, corruption, and lack of competence and experience. Such governance and capacity-related deficiencies contributed significantly to the low and declining performance of cities, as evidenced by decaying infrastructure, inadequate transportation, poor housing, high unemployment, unacceptable levels of crime, and uncleared solid and non-solid waste. In such an environment of corruption and poor management, the private sector was unwilling to invest and expand business activities, which in turn meant that cities had little chance to play their potential role as engines of national development. In other words, instead of being part of the solution to the economic crisis in Sub-Saharan African countries, cities became part of the problem.

Poverty, Unemployment and Underemployment

The growth of Africas urban population has continued at a rate that is way in excess of the possibilities for gainful employment for all job-seekers. Particularly for unskilled rural migrants, jobs are hard to find. Large numbers of school-leavers of both rural and urban origin remain unemployed for many years. Some of the unemployed shelter with and depend on relatives where the head of the household may have regular income. Others try to survive by joining the vast army of the underemployed, usually engaged in activities in the informal economy. A growing group become part of the urban poor. Significant numbers of displaced people from conflict areas may also end up in the pool of the urban poor.

Urban poverty has many faces and multiple causes. Its main characteristics are deprivation and exclusion. In the anonymous and impersonal setting of cities, poverty can have dimensions of both material and psychological deprivation. For growing numbers of the urban poor, precarious shelter in overcrowded slums with no water/sewage or electricity, lack of employment or income, insecurity, social exclusion, and absence of safety nets are the norm. Other features of urban poverty include hunger, poor health due to nutritional deficiencies and unhygienic living conditions, and limited access to school and health services. Survival in the city has become the main preoccupation of the urban poor. Women and children in particular rank high on the list of the vulnerable poor, and are most likely to be the first affected by food shortages.

One consequence of escalating urban poverty in recent years has been the growing number of street children in African cities. While some of these children have homes and families but survive by begging or casual labor, many have been abandoned or orphaned and have no alternative to living on the street. Their existence is extremely precarious. Without schooling they have little hope of a brighter future, they are extraordinarily vulnerable to abuse, and for many, prostitution and crime are the only survival strategies available. In some countries, street children are also one of the legacies of armed conflict. Former child soldiers, often alienated, traumatized by their experiences and inured to violence, present a daunting challenge to countries trying to rebuild after war.

Even for those who are employed, life in the urban environment is not easy. Given the weak economies in most Sub-Saharan African countries, very few jobs can be provided in the modern formal economy. Also, with the clear exception of South Africa, most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have not succeeded in establishing a strong industrial sector. As a result, employment in the modern industrial/manufacturing and related service sectors, usually concentrated in cities, has not been very significant. Consequently, widespread unemployment and underemployment are features of urban life in every African country. It is estimated that at least 25% of the labor force in African cities is unemployed. In reality the figure for urban unemployment could well be much higher than 25%, since a substantial proportion of the urban workforce employed in the informal economy represents disguised unemployment.

Significantly, the youth (ages 15 to 24) make up some 35% of the total population, but account for about 70% of all unemployed people in urban areas. With no job and hence little or no income, access to social services (health facilities, training and education), transportation facilities, and adequate housing becomes uncertain or virtually impossible. The ensuing frustration may provide fertile ground for political agitators, leading urban youth towards radicalism and fueling political instability in cities. Some unemployed youth may drift towards prostitution, juvenile delinquency, drug trafficking and other forms of criminality.

In the decades immediately following independence, governments in many countries created employment and income-earning opportunities for growing numbers of young school leavers and college graduates in the civil service and in other public sector agencies. However, as a result of the subsequent decline of the economies of most countries and the implementation of economic reform programs in the 1980s and 1990s, employment in the public sector generally stagnated or even declined. Indeed, in a number of cases, there were significant reductions in public sector employment. Lack of job opportunities elsewhere drove some of the retrenched employees into the informal economy.

In general, most rural migrants arriving in the cities lack the skills to take up jobs in the modern formal economy. As a consequence, participation in the informal or parallel economy functions as a survival strategy for large numbers of urban dwellers. (see Box ).

The Informal or Parallel Economy

In most cities in Sub-Saharan Africa, the modern formal economy provides jobs for only 10% of the workforce though it produces over three-quarters of urban value added. The informal economy employs on average 60% of the urban workforce in Sub-Saharan Africa, but it accounts for less than one-quarter of the urban output. In countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it may provide urban employment for as much as 80% of the workforce. Productivity in the informal economy is low, and a considerable proportion of the urban workforce employed in the informal economy represents disguised unemployment. Other distinguishing features of the informal economy are ease of entry, reliance on indigenous resources, individual or family ownership of enterprises, small-scale operation, labor-intensive and adapted technology, skills acquired outside the formal school system or training programs, and operations within unregulated and non-competitive markets. Informal enterprises operate outside the regulatory arm of government with respect to licensing and payment of minimum wages (or adherence to other labor standards), rarely pay taxes, do not keep books, and their operations are not reflected in government statistical records. Such activities may also have major disadvantages including limited access to formal credit.

Women are active participants in the informal economy. From the market women of West Africa to the ubiquitous street vendors found almost everywhere, women participate significantly in the informal urban economy, and play a dominant role in some sub-sectors, such as street-curb sale of food items. However, they are often disadvantaged by lack of access to credit or other facilities that would allow them to expand their operations. In some instances, poor women who lack other employment options even in the informal sector often resort to operating as sex workers, a particularly precarious survival strategy. In the formal private sector, although self-employed women may be well-represented in a range of roles at various levels of the trade and service sectors, financial and legal obstacles often prevent them from taking advantage of business opportunities. In general also, women have not been given adequate opportunities to attain managerial positions in enterprises, or senior appointments in public agencies.

The growth and development of the informal or parallel economy has become an inseparable part of urbanization in Sub-Saharan African countries. Some estimates indicate that, in Sub-Saharan Africa, the informal economy and the opportunity it provides for employment may grow at an annual rate of 7% whereas jobs created by the modern, formal economy may only increase 2-3% per year. Although considered a valuable safety net for unemployed youth and redundant civil servants and a useful cushion softening the impact of economic shocks, the informal economy is characterized by low productivity, incomes and value-added.

Despite the large number of participants, the informal economy does not generate the levels of income, investment, or public revenues needed to address the problems faced by most cities. Indeed, given the relative size of their informal economy, many cities stand a high risk of being caught in an artisanal trap of low productivity and incomes. As a consequence, most municipal authorities are caught in a dilemma as to how to deal effectively with informal economic actors. While recognizing that informal sector activities are the only means of livelihood for many of the urban poor, local governments are often also concerned about the contribution of such activities to other urban problems. As a result, their response has been to either largely ignore informal sector operators, or to resort to periodic campaigns to prevent them from operating.

Rising Crime and Insecurity

Cities all over the world are plagued by both random and well-organized criminal operations. African cities are no exception. Ensuring public security and enforcing the rule of law is one of the key urban governance challenges facing African countries. In many instances, crime and violence act as a significant deterrent to investment, while in some cities, whole areas have become literally ungovernable. In part, this is a consequence of past policies. Although provision of security is one of the fundamental responsibilities of the state, it has not always received sufficient political attention. Prior to democratization, the protection of citizens was not a particularly high priority for the majority of authoritarian African governments, .

Over the years, the incidences of crime and the degree of violence have increased rapidly in a number of African cities, including the largest ones. Many cities experience the full range of criminal activity from the petty to the armed and organized variety. Theft is the most common crime, but some criminal gangs appear to have graduated to drug-trafficking and money laundering. So-called white collar crimes are also on the increase in urban centers. Adverse social and economic conditions, including frustration resulting from low incomes, limited job opportunities, and lack of access to urban facilities, have contributed to the rise in criminality. Crime is also facilitated by the anonymous character of the big city, and by such other institutional weaknesses as poor pay and inadequate training of police, and by deficiencies in essential infrastructure like street lights. Women, the elderly and the weak are easy victims of all kinds of crime. But urban insecurity is by no means limited to these vulnerable groups. Businesses particularly small and medium enterprises, are also among the victims. In short, insecurity is widespread and felt by nearly all citizens.

In response to the growing threat of armed robbery, and the inability of the police to provide adequate protection, relatively well-to-do individuals and many business are engaging private security firms. In some cities, citizens are organizing themselves into neighborhood self-protection groups, and in extreme cases as vigilantes. These vigilante groups and private security firms, however, sometimes take the law into their own hands. This, in turn, tends to further weaken the rule of law and the authority of government agencies both at the municipal and national levels.

It is important to recognize the negative implications of crime and insecurity on new investment and expansion of existing business. It is imperative that crime be combated and safety and public security be restored if African cities are to be in a position to fulfil their potential for attracting new investment and retaining existing businesses. For municipalities, one of the most obvious challenges is the re-establishment and maintenance of public security and rule of law.

Infrastructure and Services

To maximize the benefits of urban life as well as to minimize the adverse effects of living in close proximity, the adequate and efficient provision of essential services has to be assured. Urban planning must ascertain the separation of residential from industrial quarters. It must also incorporate infrastructure for transport, communication, and other essential utilities including the supply of electricity and water, and the disposal of sewage and other waste. On the social side, municipalities need to have facilities for various levels of education and health services. While some services such as telecommunications and utilities -- may be more efficiently provided by private enterprises, social services in particular will continue to be responsibility of public authorities.

In theory, the concentration of urban settlements should make it more economical and feasible to provide all of these essential services. In practice, due to financial limitations and capacity constraints, most African cities are hard pressed to provide basic services to citizens. Responsibility for some of these services is either shared or even exclusively that of central governments. In either case, the problems of inadequacy, inefficiency, and further deterioration of service remain. With regard to transport, communications, and other utilities, the gap between demand and supply is widening. Existing facilities are poorly maintained, and investments in expanded service delivery are constrained by lack of financing. As a result, traffic congestion, inadequate mass transport, crumbling roads, intermittent and unreliable electric, telephone and water supply are becoming more the norm than the exception, even in the better areas of cities. In some cities, bribery has become the rule if one wants to forestall arbitrary interruption of utility services.

In general, lack of adequate infrastructure ranks high among the most basic impediments to economic growth in most Sub-Saharan African countries. In an increasingly technological and knowledge-based world, African businesses are disadvantaged by the fact that, with the exception of South Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa has the worlds least developed information and communications infrastructure. In cities, poor infrastructure affects both the economic performance of the private sector and the living conditions of citizens. Many major African cities have sprawling ghettoes where hundreds of thousands people live in appalling housing conditions and without facilities like sewerage, electricity, water, or paved roads. The continuance of rural habits by large numbers of people unaccustomed to living in an urban environment, together with lack of maintenance, has further contributed to the decay of physical infrastructure in cities.

The picture with respect to social services is not much different. The high rate of growth of urban settlements had many consequences in the area of social services -- education, health, catering for the poor and the elderly. In many countries, governments were unable to cope with the rising demand for urban social services. The basic cause of this inability was the disparity between the growth of the urban population and the availability of public resources. In some countries, the consequences of this mismatch were exacerbated by policy choices which gave low priority to the social sectors as compared to other areas of public expenditure, including "national security". In most instances, funds were lacking for new investments in schools and medical facilities. Neither were sufficient funds allocated for the necessary maintenance and running of existing facilities. Recurrent costs did not cover much more than the salaries of personnel. The overall result was overcrowded classrooms, lack of educational materials, poorly trained and poorly paid teachers, lack of medicines and other medical supplies. The quality of service continues to decline, further exacerbating the breakdown of social capital.

Recently, governments in many Sub-Saharan African countries have had to face a new and additional major burden: the social and economic consequences of the AIDS epidemic. Countries in Southern and Central Africa especially are faced with high rates of HIV/AIDS infection. The impact of HIV/AIDS is devastating. Health care systems in many countries are stretched beyond their limits, since growing numbers of AIDS patients are occupying nearly all available urban hospital beds. Obviously the AIDS epidemic increases health expenditures at the individual, municipal and state levels, thereby diverting resources which could have been used for productive investment. Health personnel, teachers and students comprise a significant proportion of those who are infected and dying in increasing numbers. In other cases, such professionals have to take long leave or give up work to care for infected family members.

The impact of AIDS goes beyond the social sectors. AIDS is not only a major killer, reducing life expectancy, generating orphans, and generally eroding traditional mechanisms of social protection. It is also reducing productivity and incomes, hence affecting overall economic performance. Moreover, AIDS increases the ratio of dependents to workers, resulting in lower savings and further widening the existing gap between savings and investment.

III. Prospects and Opportunities

The almost overwhelming range of problems evident in major cities throughout the continent tends to mask the fact that urbanization, if properly managed, also provides considerable opportunities and even benefits. Rural-urban migration can relieve demographic pressures on rural areas, avoiding additional fragmentation of landholdings and allowing farmers and governments to take measures to help raise per capita agricultural output and productivity.

In urban areas themselves, the economies of scale associated with urban agglomeration favor investment in productive capacity. The concentration of people in urban areas constitutes an important base for industrialization and economic diversification, which are indispensable for economic growth and development. The close proximity of urban households allows the provision of social services like health and education at reduced cost per beneficiary. Similarly, urban agglomeration makes it much more economical to ensure accessibility of citizens to essential infrastructure such as roads, housing, electricity, water and sanitation. Over time, urbanization can promote the development of a middle class with increased spending power, which in turn will change consumption patterns, generate demand for consumer goods and stimulate private sector activity.

In the long-term, the influx of people from various backgrounds and regions of the country into a provincial or national capital should have a positive impact on the process of national integration, and in particular enhance inter-regional and inter-ethnic harmony and understanding. More active political participation by individuals, communities and civil society groupings also becomes more feasible in an urban setting. Pluralism and participatory governance, and over time the institutionalization of service delivery in response to citizen demand, can all be cultivated within the framework of urban political and administrative structures. Political innovation too, tends to be facilitated by urbanization. In most African countries, urban areas provided much of the impetus for democratization, and political competition is strongest in cities.

The challenge facing most African countries is to address current problems while at the same time creating the policy environment that will allow cities to become more effective centers of growth and progress. Cities have to be made governable, livable, and economically viable. This implies a more proactive and integrated policy stance and greater innovation on the part of national and local authorities than has been the case to date. Urbanization also has to be considered in the context of overall development policy, if the role of cities in national development is to be understood and built upon, and the synergies between rural and urban areas exploited. Policy options will obviously differ from country to country and city to city, depending on the prevailing circumstances. However, in all cases, the sustainable development of cities requires a national framework of political and macroeconomic stability, respect for human rights, and democratic governance.

Government actions alone will not address all the problems of urbanization. However, only governments can put in place the necessary policy environment to facilitate civic engagement and private sector participation. While addressing current problems may be the overriding preoccupation of most national and municipal authorities, longer-term strategies to take advantage of the positive aspects of urbanization are also needed. Otherwise, urban authorities will constantly be trying, and probably failing, to meet rapidly changing needs. In the short-term, solutions have to be targeted to specific problems and circumstances within cities, with the participation and involvement of local communities. Over the long-term, progress has to be not only maintained but also built upon. Informed planning, flexibility to respond to changing circumstances, and timely action to exploit comparative advantages can help municipal authorities to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by urbanization.

Enhancing Municipal Autonomy

If cities are to contribute to and support national development, attention has to be paid to ensuring their effective management and financing. Many of the problems urban areas currently face are the consequence of poor governance, in part due to inappropriate political and economic policies at the national level, but also to mismanagement and bureaucratic inefficiencies at the municipal level itself. With democratization, civil society organizations and citizens in urban areas are increasingly demanding more accountable governance and improved delivery of services. The legitimacy afforded to public authorities will in part be determined by their willingness and ability to respond. Broadly the same governance improvements that many African countries are trying to put in place at the national level are required by individual cities. Accountability, transparency, rule of law, equitable access to resources and participation in decision-making are all fundamentals of good governance of cities as well as of countries.

Decentralization and participation

The democratization of society and the (re-)introduction of multi-partyism in most Sub-Saharan African countries seems to make broadening of the political base of government, hitherto concentrated in the capital, inevitable. As a consequence, there will be growing expectations of devolution of power to regions and cities. Demands for greater involvement of local authorities and community networks in the planning, funding, implementation and monitoring of activities and services hitherto undertaken and delivered by national public institutions are also likely to increase. As community organizations develop and gain experience they will be better able to both articulate the needs of their constituents, and hold authorities accountable for their performance in meeting them.

Decentralization represents one of the most promising ways to confront the challenges of rapid urbanization, and one that is increasingly being adopted by African countries. It is, however, an extremely complex process that requires careful implementation and management. It is also very costly in the short-term. Genuine decentralization is much more than the de-concentration or delegation of certain government functions. To be effective, it has to involve the decentralization of real power as well as the responsibility to generate and allocate financial resources. Both the degree and method of decentralization also require attention. Improved service delivery, more accountable government, and increased local participation may not be achieved solely through decentralization of authority to the lowest possible level. Moreover, decentralization does not necessarily combat corruption -- without appropriate checks and balances, or measures to promote accountability, corruption and bureaucratic inefficiencies can in fact be decentralized along with administrative functions.

Successful decentralization depends on the coherence of national and local policies, as well as on shared responsibilities of government and civil society. It also depends on the technical capacity of local and municipal authorities to fulfill their functions. Administrative layers without political power, financial resources or adequate personnel are unlikely to contribute to good governance. The political responsibilities and commitments of different levels of government need to be clearly spelled out, and financial arrangements between central and local authorities agreed. At the same time, both major cities and smaller urban centers need to develop the necessary human resources and institutional capacity to respond adequately to changing and increased demands.

In the short-term, the competence of existing personnel may be improved by training. Sustainable improvements over the long-term will be facilitated by measures to penalize corruption and reward professional integrity and managerial competence, appropriate training and skills development, and merit-based recruitment and promotion. Over the long-term also, innovative ways need to be found to attract and retain promising and talented individuals, including those from local areas. Efforts to make secondary cities and rural towns more appealing through improved social and recreational opportunities, services and enhanced infrastructure could not only attract more competent personnel to local government, but could also encourage the opening of new businesses and the development of existing ones.

Over the long-term, decentralization may also slow the growth of capital cities and major urban centers, and redistribute the urban population by facilitating the emergence of small and medium sized cities. This will be strengthened by policies that specifically encourage the development of secondary cities. Available data strongly suggests a correlation between centralized states and the concentration of the urban population in one major city, usually the capital, while decentralized states are more associated with countries with a number of rural centers or secondary cities.

In principle, decentralization facilitates the greater involvement of local communities in development. This is particularly important for cities, where civic engagement is key to their manageability and sustainability. Election of local and municipal officials is perhaps the most democratic way of increasing citizen participation, as well as promoting official accountability. But beyond this, how to involve stakeholders and ensure equitable representation of communities in decision-making structures is an on-going dilemma many cities are faced with. Poorer and less well-educated citizens can often find it difficult to organize effectively or articulate their concerns, while non-governmental organizations can be used to advance the views of a few at the expense of the majority. Care is needed to ensure that government-community management structures are accountable to the communities they are supposed to serve, that decisions are made in an open and transparent manner, and that information is shared. Specific attention is also needed to ensure that women are included and represented, and that their demands are adequately voiced. In spite of initial difficulties in creating workable structures, in urban areas throughout the world the increased involvement of communities has built support for policies and helped to ensure their successful implementation.

Management of cities

Ensuring effective and sustainable financing for the development of cities requires a significant increase in local resources, and a changed attitude to urban financing. African cities are not alone in this. Throughout the world, municipal authorities have realized that cities need to be more productive, better managed, and more competitive if they are to be financially sustainable. In Africa too, over the long-term, improved financial management will be key to the livability and productivity of cities. While increased revenue from central authorities may be forthcoming in some instances, most cities will need to assume responsibility for their own financing. This will require that they become more cost-effective and efficient, and that they expand their revenue base. Cost savings resulting from streamlined public administration can be re-channeled toward service provision, while proactive planning permits more effective use of resources and more creative ways of funding service delivery over the long-term.

In the short-term more efficient use of human resources and public funds could result in increased revenue. But over the long-term, better revenue generation and collection is obviously needed in many cities. Bureaucratic inefficiencies and corruption result in considerable revenue losses. Effectively combating corruption and the provision of reliable services will constitute two major prerequisites to convince urban dwellers to contribute their share of local financing through payment of taxes and fees. Some municipal authorities have managed to raise revenue through user fees, even in relatively poorer communities, by improving services and instituting feasible payment mechanisms.

More and more cities are realizing that they have also to expand their revenue base. Large urban centers will need to improve their creditworthiness as well as their access to credit and, over the long-term, their ability to float bonds on the capital market, as some are already doing. Others will need to determine where their comparative advantage lies and how this can best be exploited. For example, in some instances tourism is being developed, although this requires long-term planning and investment of public funds to improve security, upgrade infrastructure or provide incentives to private business.

Policy measures that encourage the development of a more prosperous business sector will also help to enlarge the revenue base of cities. Some municipal authorities have realized that taxing a small number of businesses at a high rate does not necessarily maximize revenue generation; it may actually encourage tax evasion or other illegal activity. They have successfully increased revenues by broadening the tax base, revising the tax structure, and focusing on more efficient tax collection. More attractive investment opportunities within a sound national policy environment could also help to stem and reverse capital flight, a resource drain plaguing many African countries.

Developing Employment Options

High rates of unemployment and limited economic opportunities have created a potentially explosive social problem in many African cities, especially given the significant percentage of young people caught in this situation. As a consequence, generating economic growth and creating employment have now become development imperatives for urban areas throughout the continent. This will require significant expansion of the formal private sector, which remains under-developed in most African countries, and the encouragement and facilitation of much higher levels of private investment than has hitherto been the case. In the long run, countries cannot compete internationally on the basis of a largely informal economy.

It is therefore incumbent on governments to create an enabling environment for private enterprise and investment. National and local policies can have a significant impact in this regard. It is difficult for enterprises to be competitive if transport costs are high, if corruption and bureaucratic inefficiencies result in delays and higher costs, and if services are unreliable. For its part, the private sector has to continuously increase its efficiency and productivity if it is to be internationally competitive. Government policies can help the development of the private sector in urban areas, not only through targeted interventions, but also through general policies designed to remove bottlenecks, streamline procedures, and protect property rights. What is often not fully understood is the degree to which private businesses in African cities have to be self-sufficient, in terms of providing the power, transport, and security services that local and national authorities should, but frequently do not, supply.

Given the predominant problem of unemployment in the majority of cities, the encouragement of labor-intensive investments should be an important aspect of public policy. The responsibility for the enactment of legislation aimed at investment promotion rests with the central government. Various incentives, including tax privileges, could be created to stimulate the adoption of labor-intensive production techniques. Local authorities may contribute to an appropriate environment for private sector activities by providing efficient physical infrastructure, offering favorable treatment of labor-intensive investments (e.g. special tariffs for public utilities), and creating forums for public-private dialogue and consultation. Additionally, the promotion of secondary cities and rural towns through improved spatial planning offers potential for urban employment opportunities.

An important challenge with respect to urbanization is to manage the progressive transformation of the informal economy into the formal economy, and to encourage the emergence of small and medium enterprises. Public authorities may promote the establishment and growth of formal small and medium enterprises by facilitating their access to technology, raw materials, external markets and particularly commercial banks and other sources of credit. With financial intermediation especially, a range of options are needed. For example, targeted microcredit schemes have proven effective in assisting segments of the population not served by traditional financial institutions. In most instances also, special attention will be required to ensure that women entrepreneurs benefit from policies and are afforded access to services, training and credit.

In many countries the number, location and variety of informal enterprises are unknown. This is counterproductive since no meaningful policy can be formulated without this knowledge. For instance, no policies can be devised to foster linkages between the formal and informal sectors when locations of the informal enterprises and their main activities are not known. In the same way, there can be no meaningful training to enhance the capacity of informal entrepreneurs without a reasonable idea of where they are or what they do.

The difficulties of effectuating successful transition to formality should not be underestimated, especially when the overall environment is characterized by high levels of informality. The process of formalization of enterprises entails two distinct but related aspects, namely, attaining and maintaining legal status. These usually involve an initial registration process, procedures concerning the location of the enterprises, health and safety standards, registrations concerning taxes, and rules related to labor. The most critical is the registration of the enterprise. High registration fees and cumbersome processes deter many informal enterprises. The registration of informal enterprises with appropriate government authorities needs to be encouraged through the lowering of registration fees and the decentralization of registration offices, so that no entrepreneur need go beyond his/her local authority to register.

The market for products of many informal enterprises is very limited. This retards innovation and productivity. Policies to enhance linkages between the informal and the formal economy therefore need to be encouraged. Measures to enlarge the market will include fostering of linkages and sub-contracting between informal and formal enterprises, which can also induce informal enterprises to become formal. They may also have additional advantages, such as extension of credit and provision of technical and professional advice on the part of formal enterprises. The increasing formalization of activities may lead informal enterprises to pay taxes and other levies which at the city level would result in increased revenues and better public service.

Providing Public Security

The rapid pace of urbanization has very often outstripped the capacity of authorities to maintain law and order. In recent years, high levels of unemployment and lack of economic opportunity have worsened insecurity, and for some among the urban poor, illegal activity may be the only survival strategy available. At the same time, poor urban areas, often without any form of policing, are ideal recruiting grounds for criminal gangs. The changing nature of criminal activity has also worsened the security situation in a number of countries, with organized and transnational crime presenting new threats that are often beyond the ability of authorities to control.

Most municipal authorities cite lack of financial resources as a reason for their inability to provide civil security. Yet obviously there is a need for urgent action. Unless security can be improved, it will be hard for cities to stop the spiral of decline and attract the investment they need to begin to turn around. A major challenge for national and municipal governments is to rebuild public trust in security forces, which means that government actions need to have a demonstrable impact. At the same time, law and order has to be equitably enforced. Security cannot be afforded to certain segments of the urban population and denied others, without exacerbating existing social differences. Similarly, certain population groups cannot be targeted for breaking the law while others are allowed to behave with impunity.

The growth of private security companies in urban areas is a reflection of the inadequacy of public security arrangements. Although such companies can usefully augment public policing, they should not replace it. Otherwise, security will only be available to those who can afford to pay for it, leaving the poor even more vulnerable. Measures to improve the quality and coverage of public security services are obviously needed in most cities, and could usefully be supported by Africas development partners. Police forces are for the most part under-funded, under-staffed and under-trained. Over the long term, creating professional police forces and other security agencies will be essential to improving security. Positive motivation in the form of salary incentives, and better work conditions, along with training and efficient management, could help to improve performance and commitment.

While for the most part improvements in security will require increased investment in security services, greater collaboration between civil society and local authorities can help to fill the security gap and promote the rule of law. Experience has also shown that upgrading shantytowns and other informal settlements by providing services and permitting ownership of property can over time improve security, as well as the social and economic wellbeing of those who live there. In the long-term, reducing unemployment and creating economic opportunities will be the most effective way of increasing public security.

Improved security will also in the long-term depend on better functioning legal systems and enhanced access to justice, especially on the part of the urban poor. Efforts to combat police and judicial corruption should be part of a comprehensive anti-corruption strategy supported at the highest political levels. Although the primary responsibility for ensuring urban security lies with municipal authorities, they alone cannot deal with the range of criminal activity that plagues an increasing number of African cities. Countering drug smuggling and the illegal arms trade, as well as transnational and organized crime, will require national, and sometimes regional or international solutions. Sub-regional cooperation, exchange of information and coordination of activities related to combating organized and cross-border crime should all be components of the search for such solutions.

Improving Urban Facilities

Lack of jobs or income may partly explain the exclusion of many poor urban dwellers from urban facilities like clinics, schools and public housing. In principle, such basic and essential social services should be available to all. However, the public provision of social services even to those who can pay for them is seriously hampered by inadequate physical facilities, poor maintenance, and inefficient institutional arrangements. Transport, energy, communications and water supply are among the other municipal services that are often inadequately provided. Dissatisfied customers of utilities are reluctant to pay user charges, and may feel justified in evading municipal levies and taxes. The private sector is unlikely to invest or expand its operations under such conditions. This erodes the tax base, which in turn means that governments both at the central and local levels find themselves with insufficient funds to maintain or upgrade existing facilities. As revenues are not likely to increase in the short term, authorities will have to focus on improving policies, management, and the effective use of existing resources. Adequate attention and resources should be devoted to the maintenance of existing facilities, and not just to the creation of new infrastructure.

Many of the urban poor are forced to live in informal settlements, usually on the outskirts of cities, because other affordable housing is lacking. Because such settlements are usually illegal, the official response has often been to try to destroy them or force inhabitants to leave. Even when the settlements are permitted, municipal authorities tend not to provide services. But in several instances, policy changes have led to radical improvements. Provision of basic services has led to upgrading of slums, and even to collection of user fees. Policy changes to permit private ownership and protect property rights have had a similarly significant impact, in some instances also stimulating small-scale private enterprise. Some local authorities have had considerable success in providing affordable housing through "site and service" arrangements, which allow residents to upgrade as and when they can afford to do so.

Over the long-term, the adequacy of services and infrastructure will be significant factors in the prosperity, as well as the livability, of cities. Municipal authorities usually indicate that they lack the resources to upgrade infrastructure. But at times poor planning and lack of innovation are also to blame. Lack of long-term, city-wide planning often results in piecemeal and ad hoc interventions, as well as considerable disparities in terms of service provision within cities. Conversely, a long-term development strategy can help municipal authorities to provide adequate service coverage in a cost-effective manner, taking advantage of economies of scale and existing networks. It can also help to balance environmental concerns with the needs of urban populations. Much of the environmental degradation evident in major cities results from lack of planning or adherence to regulatory standards.

To help reduce urban poverty, it is important that consideration be given to improving access to basic services within the entire city. Current managerial arrangements in many urban areas preclude this, leading to competition among administrative structures for existing resources, often to the detriment of poor areas. Dialogue between municipal authorities and communities, along with monitoring and feedback on delivery, has helped to improve provision of infrastructure and services in some cities by better defining needs, encouraging citizen participation, and reducing corruption. Throughout the world public-private partnerships have become increasingly important vehicles for the provision of urban infrastructure. Provided they are well designed and managed, such ventures have generally been successful. In many cities also, responsibilities for certain functions such as waste collection have been contracted out to private operators, in the process improving services and stimulating private enterprise.

Strengthening Rural-Urban Linkages

Maximizing the positive aspects of urbanization, and minimizing the negative, obviously requires strategic planning and management at the municipal level, supported by effective systems for the collection of data and information. However, it also depends on the coherence of national policies and promotion of the synergies between urban and rural areas within a broad development framework. This may include strategies to support the growth of small towns and secondary cities, complementing the trend toward decentralization. While this will not necessarily reduce the overall rate of urbanization, it will change the spatial distribution of urban populations, limiting the pressure on capital cities and major urban centers, and perhaps also reducing levels of urban poverty.

Secondary cities have much more potential to strengthen rural-urban linkages, retain young talent in their general areas of origin, and more importantly to stem migration from rural areas to cities. Provincial or secondary cities in most cases are ideally located to stimulate and enhance agricultural productivity and value-added by serving as markets, storage and processing centers, they are the supply points for improved agricultural technologies and essential farm inputs, as well as consumer goods. Because of their proximity, they provide viable opportunities for off-farm and off-season employment. Farm households and other rural people may easily access other essential services, including schools and health centers, transport and communication links, as well as banking and credit institutions, all of which can be and usually are located in secondary cities. Governments should encourage this and support the growth and viability of such cities.

Although each situation depends on its specific context, the experience of the recent past in most Sub-Saharan African countries suggests that the economic development of rural areas is strongly dependent on both the diversity of rural-urban linkages and the extent of their exploitation. Reliable and varied flows of people, trade and resources have also benefited urban areas. In contrast, those regions without adequate infrastructure networks or relations with urban centers continue to be isolated and hence marginalized in the modern, national economy. The basis for strengthened rural-urban linkages exists in most African countries. At the household level, there is often considerable movement of family members between rural and urban areas. Many urban dwellers maintain houses, land and livestock in rural areas, and remittances from family members in urban areas provide an important safety net for rural households. Policies that build on such linkages could help to improve the economic situation in rural areas, as well as stimulate the development of small and medium enterprises in rural towns and smaller cities. Appropriate policies are also needed to address overall urban food security.

Improved transport and communications networks would help to strengthen rural-urban linkages, while development of small towns and secondary cities would provide accessible markets for agricultural produce and thus strengthen rural economies. At the same time, policies to improve agricultural productivity and stimulate non-farm employment are central to reducing rural poverty. This latter is of particular importance. If rural-urban migration is to be stemmed and the wellbeing of rural populations improved, a more diversified employment structure is needed. Policies that address land use and tenure, as well as those that improve access to markets, credit and agricultural inputs, would help.

Conclusion

Addressing the political, social and economic problems posed by rapid urbanization is one of the most pressing governance challenges facing African governments. Widespread urban poverty and deprivation, sharply contrasted with relative wealth, have created a potentially explosive situation which, left unaddressed, could result in civil unrest and political upheaval. People migrate to urban centers in search of a better future. Governments have the responsibility to create the policy environment that allows them to attain it. It is true that the challenges are daunting, but democratization and improved communication have now provided most African countries with an opportunity to meet them through closer collaboration between governments and civil society.

Urbanization also presents opportunities for national development, both politically and economically. Participation in community structures or locally elected bodies is a stepping stone for involvement in national politics. At the same time, participatory governance promotes popular political awareness and the institutionalization of democratic culture. Given an appropriate political climate, the economic potential of urbanization can also be exploited. In Africa as elsewhere, vibrant, prosperous cities can provide the basis for national progress and prosperity. African countries can learn from countries in other regions, as well as from their own experience, and determine what is required to make urbanization a cornerstone of development in the 21st century.

Annex I Urbanization Trends 1960-2000

Annex Urbanization Trends

Country
Urban population
(as % of total)

Urban population
annual growth rate (%)

 
1960
1991
2000a
1960-1991
1991-2000a
Angola
10
28
36
5.9
5.4
Benin
9
38
45
7.4
5
Botswana
2
28
42
13.5
7.9
Burkina Faso
5
9
12
4.6
6.3
Burundi
2
6
7
5.5
6.1
Cameroon
14
41
51
6.5
5.7
Cape Verde
16
29
36
4.1
5.6
Central Afr Rep.
23
47
55
4.8
4.6
Chad
7
30
39
7.1
5.4
Congo, Dem Rep
22
40
46
4.8
5
Congo, Rep of
32
41
47
3.6
4.9
Côte d'Ivoire
19
40
47
6.5
5.5
Djibouti
50
81
84
7.3
3.5
Equatorial Guinea
25
29
33
1.5
4
Ethiopia
6
13
17
4.8
5.8
Gabon
17
46
54
6.3
4.9
Gambia, The
13
23
30
5.2
5.3
Ghana
23
33
38
3.9
4.6
Guinea
10
26
33
5.3
5.8
Guinea-Bissau
14
20
25
3.2
4.7
Kenya
7
24
32
7.7
7
Lesotho
3
20
28
8.6
6.3
Liberia
19
46
57
6.2
5.5
Madagascar
11
24
31
5.6
6
Malawi
4
12
16
6.5
6.5
Mali
11
19
23
4.4
5.2
Mauritania
6
47
59
9.8
5.3
Mauritius
33
41
42
2.3
1.3
Mozambique
4
27
41
9.5
7.2
Namibia
15
28
34
4.8
5.4
Niger
6
20
27
7.4
6.7
Nigeria
14
35
43
6.3
5.4
Rwanda
2
8
11
7.4
7.6
Senegal
32
38
45
3.5
4.4
Sierra Leone
13
32
40
5.2
5.1
Somalia
17
36
44
5.8
4.7
South Africa
47
58
66
3.2
3.2
Sudan
10
22
27
5.4
4.8
Swaziland
4
33
45
10.5
6.7
Tanzania, U. Rep
5
33
47
10.3
7.5
Togo
10
26
33
6.2
6
Uganda
5
10
14
6.1
6.6
Zambia
17
50
59
7.1
5.5
Zimbabwe
13
28
35
5.9
5.4
All developing countries
22
37
45
4
4
Sub-Saharan Africa
15
31
38
5.2
5.3

Source: Carole Rakodi (ed.), The urban challenge in Africa: growth and management of its large cities. (1997), pp. 68-69

a) Projections. These estimates are based on reported growth rates and do not include the impact of unrest, wars etc, on the pace of urbanization in individual countries.

Data not available for Eritrea, or the island states of Comoros, Sao Tomé and Principe, and Seychelles

Annex II Brief Profiles of Four Large Cities:
Abidjan, Johannesburg, Lagos, Nairobi

The following profiles are not exhaustive or fully representative of the complexities of the cities. Rather, they highlight some of their salient characteristics.

1 ABIDJAN

Although urbanization in Côte dIvoire is very recent, the country has had a rapid rate of urban growth averaging 8.1% per annum in the period 1965-1975 and 5.4% in the period 1975 to 1988. Today, over 40% of the countrys 15 million population is urban, and Abidjan is by far the largest city. Its population is estimated to have reached almost 3 million in 2000, or 45% of the total urban population. Rural-urban migration accounts for nearly 60% of the growth of the citys population. There is also migration from neighboring countries.

The tendency towards single-city dominance in Côte dIvoire may be explained by the over-concentration of economic activities in Abidjan. Abidjan boasts about 72% of the national manufacturing effort, 60% of the jobs in the secondary sector and 75% of tertiary jobs. It is also the main port for import-export not only for Côte dIvoire but also for some of its land-locked neighbors. Decentralization policies did not start seriously until the 1980s with the creation of lower tiers of administration and the decision to move the capital from Abidjan to Yamoussoukro, even though not much has actually moved to the latter since then.

Abidjans infrastructure is considered to be among the best in West Africa though it has deteriorated recently. The city has a relatively well-developed network of roads, a performing public transport system, and an international airport. Other infrastructure, like housing, sewage and drainage facilities, however, have not kept pace with the citys growth. Moreover, problems which plague other cities in Sub-Saharan Africa, including unemployment, a large informal economy, growing crime, are also present in Abidjan. Besides, due to its geographic location the city is faced with numerous health problems.

2 JOHANNESBURG

South Africa is the most urbanized country in Sub-Saharan Africa. Over 60% of its population of 42 million live in urban settlements. The Johannesburg Greater Metropolitan Area, with a population of 8 million, is one of the largest urban centers in Sub-Saharan Africa and has its origin in gold mining which started in 1886. There has been and continues to be significant migration, in particular from other SADC countries. It is estimated that 1 million of the citys inhabitants are legal migrants from other African countries and Europe and that another 1 million people, from outside South Africa, live illegally in the city.

Johannesburg is Africas largest industrial, mining, commercial and financial center. With its modern physical and technological infrastructure and highly educated and skilled manpower, Johannesburg could be one of Africas most promising cities. It is, however, confronted with daunting problems, many stemming from apartheid-era policies. Extreme income disparity, and long-entrenched economic and social divisions based on race, persist. It is faced with the need to maintain existing infrastructure, concentrated in white areas, while simultaneously investing to upgrade infrastructure in hitherto disadvantaged black areas. Unemployment is estimated at over 30%, with economic growth rate hovering at less than 1% per annum.

Safety and security rank among the top priorities for the metropolitan area. Escalating unemployment and wide social disparities have resulted in extremely high rates of crime. This has discouraged investment and led businesses to relocate outside the inner city in more affluent and, until now, relatively safer suburbs. At the same time, the continued influx of migrants into the city has resulted in overcrowded residential areas and an expansion of slums and squatter settlements.

In an attempt to halt the decline, Johannesburg recently embarked on a Strategic Development Framework which positions the metropolis as a gateway to Africa. It highlights sectors within the city that can be developed as industrial zones, capitalizing on existing infrastructure. The plan also looks at the democratization of the city, encouraging community participation, especially in terms of upgrading public facilities, as well as involvement in neighborhood policing within the inner city areas. Part of the plan is to attract people of all income groups back into the inner city by upgrading housing and other community facilities.

Johannesburg was among the first cities to make use of the South African Governments Municipal Infrastructure Investment Fund, which helps local authorities to enter into partnerships with the private sector for delivery of services. The city explored options varying from privatization of non-core assets to contracting management of facilities to private companies. It is making progress in realizing private-public partnerships in a variety of areas. A key concern is that privatization does not result in job losses.

3 LAGOS

In 1991 there were 340 cities in Nigeria with populations of 20,000 and over. It was estimated that there were about 14 cities with populations of one million or more in 1995. Unlike urbanization in many other Sub-Saharan African countries, large cities are spread around the country, which in part has been reinforced by decentralization policies.

Lagos, by far the largest city in Nigeria and indeed the whole of Africa, has an estimated population of nearly 13 million (2000). In 1950, its population was less than 300,000. The citys rapid growth is largely accounted for by migration (estimates vary between 60 and 75%). Lagos is Nigerias commercial and industrial center. A peculiar characteristic of Lagos is its geographic location. The metropolitan area includes a group of islands, creeks and a lagoon, and outward growth can only be northwards.

The haphazard development of a disjointed city negatively affected transportation, communication, housing, and water, sewerage and energy facilities. Although most jobs in Lagos are situated at the southern fringe, most of the residential neighborhoods are situated to the north. Until recently, only two major roads linked these residential and employment areas resulting in the citys extreme traffic congestion. It was hoped that the transfer of the national capital from Lagos to Abuja would lessen the congestion in Lagos, but this has not yet been the case.

The rate of migration into Lagos and the overall growth of the citys population in the last four decades has been far in excess of what it can sustain. The resulting serious unemployment and underemployment have been made worse by mismanagement, corruption and adverse economic policies. Most of the unemployed found refuge in the informal economy, which is estimated to account for between 50% and 75% of the total employment in Lagos. Poverty, unemployment and wide income disparities have led to increasing levels of crime and insecurity.

Lagos is very poorly served with infrastructure which is worsened by the mismatch between its growing population and the citys meager resources. Electricity supply is very irregular, about half of the city does not have access to pure water, and here is no sewerage network. Many individuals and firms provide their own water (borehole or otherwise) and electricity (generators). The poor provision of infrastructure drives away jobs and investment from the city. Lagos also suffers from an acute housing shortage, and as a result, the number of homeless people is high and rising.

Lagos has no city-wide municipal government. The metropolis currently has 18 local governments, a chaotic situation that makes the provision of such services as transport, waste management, educational and health services difficult and costly. Moreover, a critical problem is funding, as local governments generate very little in the way of internal revenue and rely heavily on monthly allocations from the Central Government. The most important source of revenue for local governments is property or tenement rates, but these cannot be levied or collected as there is no proper cadastre, land registry, or register of buildings in any of the local governments. Reform of local administration is required as a first step in the solution of these problems.

To effectively tackle its numerous infrastructure and service delivery related problems, Lagos needs a city-wide municipal government able to handle development control, urban renewal, city planning and management, and road maintenance. However, this requires fundamental (though complex) legislative action at the national level.

4. NAIROBI

Kenya has one of the highest urbanization growth rates in East Africa. Yet the countrys overall urbanization level is only about 33%, i.e. 10 million Kenyans out of a total population of 30 million live in urban areas. The post-independence urban growth has led to a mushrooming of (small) secondary cities and towns in sharp contrast with experience in many other Sub-Saharan African countries.

Nairobi, with a population of 100,000 in 1948 and 275,000 in 1963, has grown rapidly to nearly 3 million in 2000, and has some 35% of the countrys urban population. The citys rapid growth is largely accounted for by rural-urban migration: some 74% of the citys population are migrants. Nairobi currently accounts for more than half of the countrys industrial capacity, and it is the main center for much of the modern economy in terms of gross product, employment, social and physical infrastructure, and institutions.

Access to infrastructure is low, however. For instance, no more than 61% of the urban dwellers have access to safe water. Perhaps more serious is the vast separation of work places, which are mainly in the geographic center of the city or the south-east, from residences which are largely on the outskirts. This not only results in traffic congestion but also means that workers in the informal economy spend a considerable proportion of their incomes on transport. The informal economy in Nairobi provides about 75% of all urban employment. The level of violence and insecurity in Nairobi can be compared with Johannesburg.

Although decentralization has a fairly long history in Kenya, it is only at independence in 1963 that Nairobi got a Municipal Council status. Central Government interference and a weak resource base, however, have reduced the effectiveness of the municipal government to such an extent that it is de facto incapable of intervening meaningfully in the provision of amenities and infrastructure, or in maintaining a clean and healthy urban environment. As in other public institutions, there are repeated allegations against the municipal administration of widespread corruption and mismanagement. To change this will require a strong and democratic city government, able to command the respect of all and mobilize resources to make the city livable.

 

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