Integration of urbanization in national development planning vital for Africa’s transformation – Yemeru says

Addis Ababa, 12 October 2017 –Despite the pace and magnitude of urbanization in Africa, its integration in national development and economic planning is either missing or appears as an afterthought.

“Given that a growing share of Africa’s population will be living in cities in the very near future, efforts to combat poverty and inequality will be won or lost in cities” said Edlam Yemeru, Chief of the Urbanization Section of the Social Development Policy Division of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

Presenting her section’s report Wednesday to the Committee on Gender and Social Development meeting, she said national development planning needed to be viewed through an “urban lens”. This was so, she said, given the enormous advantages of well-planned and managed urbanization.  Orderly urbanization is vital for a truly positive structural transformation and inclusive growth in African countries.

Viewing national development planning through an urban lens means recognising the profound and multifaceted implications of the rapid urban transition and the related opportunities for job creation, productivity and competitiveness. 

In less than 20 years, by 2035, more Africans will be living in urban than in rural areas. The number of urban residents in Africa nearly doubled between 1995 and 2015 and is projected to almost double again by 2035.

This requires the provision of decent housing, jobs, services to catch up with the existing backlog but also accommodate future growth. These must be provided in functional urban settings with institutions, infrastructure and spatial layout responding to the needs of residents but also firms and businesses. Failure to do so will stymie economic productivity, raise environmental costs and those needed to retrofit dysfunctional urban layouts, and jeopardize meaningful structural transformation.  

Conversely, well-planned urbanization could propel economies to greater heights. Rising and changing patterns of consumption in housing and construction, for example, would lead to greater opportunities for domestic industries and business support services, all of which help create jobs for the teeming urban masses.

Globally and in Africa, Yemeru said governments had committed themselves to harness urbanization for structural transformation. These commitments are in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the African Union’s Agenda 2063, and the New Urban Agenda of the 3rd United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development held 20 October 2016 in Quito, Ecuador.

Implementing these commitments and injecting an urban lens into national development planning is the needed ingredient for Africa, now, for inclusive and sustainable structural transformation.


Issued by:

Communications Section
Economic Commission for Africa
PO Box 3001
Addis Ababa
Tel: +251 11 551 5826