Urbanization, can be a driving force for Africa’s transformation

Addis Ababa, 28 March 2015 (ECA-AUC) – “Urbanisation can be a tool for peace-building, trade and a healthy economy and it makes sense when it is integrated,” said Ms Aisha Kirabo, Deputy Executive Director  of UN Habitat in her closing remarks in the session on The Role of Urbanisation in the Structural Transformation of Africa.

The session was held at the 8th Joint Annual Meetings of the African Union Specialized Technical Committee on Finance, Monetary Affairs, Economic Planning and Integration and the ECA Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development currently taking place in Addis Ababa.

The delegates, who included Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the Chairperson of the AUC, Mr. Madala Masuku, Deputy Minister of Economic Development in South Africa, Dr. Khabele Matlosa, Director of Political Affairs at the AUC, Mr. Akin Oyateru, Ambassador of Nigeria to Kenya and Ms. Akua Sekyiwa Ahenkora, Deputy Permanent Representative of Ghana, discussed the positive and galvanising role urbanization can play in the social and economic transformation of the continent.

Urbanisation is no longer viewed as a problem but a solution to innovation, skills development and economic growth. Mr. Oyateru reminded those present that “urbanisation will happen whether we like it or not.” Reaping benefits from urbanization will not happen if there is no serious political commitment and will from governments. Professor Fantu Cheru, one of the panellists illustrated this by giving the example of Ethiopia, where disciplined planning, visionary leadership and integrated national development plans are the impetus behind the country’s urbanization and rapid growth in infrastructure projects.

About 40% of Africans live in cities and towns but by 2050 that number is expected to rise to 50% with approximately 1.26 billion people needing housing, power, water, sanitation and other services. Though Africa has the least urbanized population in the world, it is the fastest urbanising continent.  “This urbanization must be planned for as it requires sound and inclusive national policies that can address deficiencies in skills, innovation, and research and development needed for a vibrant and complex urban economy,” stated Mr.Masuku.

“I feel strongly that Africa must address urbanization now. We need robust leadership that is people centred and policies that matter,” stated Dr. Dlamini-Zuma.

 “Planned urbanisation creates value and productivity,” Mr Marco Kamiya of UN Habitat told the delegates using examples from Asia’s integrated economies.

Delegates agreed there are distinctive opportunities to be had from urbanization but that governments’ capacity for planning is a determining factor of success. Ghana and Nigeria were cited as good examples of conscious government policies being put in practice with funding from the government.


Jointly issued by the ECA and the AUC