UN report urges Africa to rethink urbanization

The Economic Report for Africa 2017, launched this week in Dakar Senegal by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, urges African policy makers to rethink urbanization in the continent. 

Indicating that the continent is urbanizing at fast rate, the Report urged the policy makers to seize the opportunity and rethink the path to urbanization.

“Africa has so far followed its own urbanizing path, which is weakly linked to structural transformation. This has resulted in the loss of many opportunities for enhanced growth and productivity, for poverty reduction and for social development,” said the report entitled, ‘Urbanization and Industrialization for Africa’s Transformation’.

“Most countries are urbanizing rapidly amid declining or stagnant industrial output and low agricultural poverty. [Policy makers in Africa] need to choose one which will contribute to Africa achieving the continental targets for inclusive growth and transformation.”

“… Africa now approaching 50% urbanization, governments at all levels have to make hard choices for the scale and type of investments they need to make, and for the spatial pattern and urban form they want to see, says the Report.

Governments are encouraged to take advantage of the changing patterns of urban consumption and rising demand for manufactured and processed goods to conceive and implement industrialization policies to cater for such needs. The largely unmet urban housing needs also provide an opportunity to improve living conditions and generate construction and service jobs.

“Urbanization in many African countries has not been driven by improving agricultural productivity,” says the Report.

The report argues that because of its multi-dimensional implications, urbanization should be anchored in national development plans that would harness it through a strategic cross-sectoral policy framework.

Governments also need to better manage urban form, improve public land management and the efficient functioning of property markets, streamline social housing programs, prioritize strategic infrastructure investments and place industry at the front rank for local economic development, the Report says.