Africas cities to triple in size by 2050

November 24, 2010


The  population of African cities is set to triple over the next 40 years, and by 2050 60% of Africans will be city dwellers, warns a new UN-Habitat report.


Slums see some progress

The State of African Cities 2010: Governance, Inequalities and Urban Land Markets reports that across the whole of Africa, 24 million slum dwellers have witnessed improved living conditions over the last decade. However, while cities in North Africa reduced the share of slum dwellers from 20 to 13 per cent, in Sub-Saharan Africa, the share of slum dwellers decreased by only five per cent (or about 17 million).

According to the report, Africa will suffer disproportionately from the negative effects of climate change such as extreme weather events despite contributing less than 5 per cent of global green house emissions. Examples given include the extreme heavy rains in Burkina Faso which left 150,000 people homeless as well as other parts of Africa that have recently suffered prolonged droughts and subsequent hunger, leading to rural-urban ecomigration, adding even more people to the urban populations at risk.

"Urbanisation is here to stay and within a few decades, Africa will be predominantly urban. Already huge urban corridors across Africa are engines of economic growth," said Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN-HABITAT. "The issue now is for regional and national governments, local authorities and all other stakeholders to pull together to ensure the efficient management of urban agglomerations. Smart urban policies could help spread the benefits and lift the continent out of poverty."

The report also highlights the difficulties caused by mobility when it comes to enumerating Sub-Saharan Africa's slum populations. A good example given is that of the Kibera slums in Nairobi, Kenya where the long-standing perception was that its population was about half a million to one million people but the 2009 census set this figure at just under 400,000. The authors argue that data on slum dwellers derived from a population census or from voter rolls, often the sole options of enumerating, should be interpreted with great caution.

UN-Habitat Executive Director, Joan Clos also adds that "It is interesting to note that today in many parts of the world, poor people take advantage of urban-rural mobility to live in multiple locations. This is especially true of slum dwellers who retain links with their rural homesteads. Policymakers and planners need to take such fluidity into account when planning the shelter needs of the poor."