Africa must privilege urbanization in development planning

Yaounde, 7 June 2016 (ECA) - Africa can no longer afford to watch its « 55 per cent galloping urban sprawl» go without factoring urbanization into its core development planning processes.

And it is high time the continent fixed « the imbalance between the modest volume of urban investments and the huge contribution of cities to GDP » said Cameroon’s Minister of Housing and Urban Development – Mr. Jean Claude Mbwentchou – at the start of an ECA-convened High Level Policy Dialogue dedicated to mainstreaming urbanization into overall development planning on the continent. 

“The important role that urbanization plays in the transformation of the Continent has also been underlined in Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Objectives” echoed Mr. Louis Paul Motaze – Cameroon’s Minister of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development, who opened the Dialogue. He concurred that urbanization concerns are yet to be well articulated into development planning across Africa, hence the merit of the on-going meeting to tease out the needed ingredients for a future of “productive, inclusive and sustainable cities, which will contribute to the diversification of our economies.” 

The Acting Resident Coordinator of the UN system in Cameroon Mr. Moussa Abari used the occasion to re-echo the UN’s campaign for inclusive growth on the continent by making use of the opportunities that urban centers offer for structural transformation.

As the ECA has posited over the past years, such structural transformation implies, among other things, the re-allocation of growth factors from low to high productive economic activities; a declining share of low-key agriculture in employment; the rise of a modern industrial economy; as well as a demographic transition to lower birth and death rates. It also entails a shift in economic activity from rural to urban areas. 

Indeed, the spending power of just 18 of such urban areas in Africa is projected to reach $1.3 trillion by 2030, said Ms. Aida Opoku-Mensah Director and Officer in Charge of the Capacity Development Division at ECA who placed the meeting in its strategic context. This, she said indicates how crucial it is for African countries to « capitalize on urbanization and strive to become high-income urbanized nations. » 

The Yaounde meeting brings together close to 40 senior state officials from across Africa, with the objective of making them champion the case for African leaders to systematically mainstream urbanization issues into overall development policy planning. 



Issued by:

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) 

PO Box 3001
Addis Ababa
Tel: +251 11 551 5826


Contact for its Sub-Regional Office for Central Africa  

P.O. Box 14935 Yaounde, Cameroon

Tel: +237 2 22231461