President Calderon on the face of urban development in Africa

By Felipe Calderón and Trevor Manuel

Better, more productive models of urban development are critical for rapidly growing cities in the developing world, and in Africa in particular. How African cities assimilate the 22 million people that will be added to their number every year for the next three decades will determine the continent’s prospects. Africa’s urban population is set to triple between 2010 and 2050, reaching 1.34 billion people. The trend is fastest in East and West Africa – the population of Lagos is expected to top 25 million in the next 15 years – but common to all regions.

President Calderon joins mayors at the C40 Latin American Mayors Forum in Buenos Aires in March 2015.

Labour is generally more productive in cities and the concentration of people in urban spaces generates markets and economies of scale in service delivery. The hope is that Africa’s urbanisation will underpin the continent’s commodity driven growth by drawing on these advantages to produce the same “urban dividend” experienced by Europe, the America’s and South-East Asia during their respective urbanisation phases. This is not, however, guaranteed in Africa.

For starters, half of Africans continue to live on less than $1.25 per day and only 4 per cent live on more than $10 per day. This makes it difficult to raise finance for all-important urban infrastructure applying traditional user-pays models – the local government budget per capita in the city of Accra, for example, is just $12.50 per annum. In addition, the continent’s local authorities are mostly contested, often inadequately supported by national governments and grappling with the basic process of defining boundaries, installing governance structures and communicating with their constituents. They are not yet able to compile an asset inventory, oversee tenure systems or marshal adequate financial resources. And finally, at the same time as Africa —> Read More