The State of African Cities 2014

Re-Imagining Sustainable Urban Transitions

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The African continent is currently in the midst of simultaneously unfolding and highly significant demographic, economic, technological, environmental, urban and socio-political transitions. Africa’s economic performance is promising, with booming cities supporting growing middle classes and creating sizable consumer markets. Despite significant overall growth, the continent continues to suffer under very rapid urban growth accompanied by massive urban poverty and many other social problems. These seem to indicate that the development trajectories followed by African nations since post-independence may not be able to deliver on the aspirations of broad based human development and prosperity for all. This report, therefore, argues for a bold re-imagining of prevailing models in order to steer the ongoing transitions towards greater sustainability based on a thorough review of all available options. That is especially the case since the already daunting urban challenges in Africa are now being exacerbated by the new vulnerabilities and threats associated with climate and environmental change.



Global change and implications for urban development

Neither Southern Africa nor Africa in general contributed to the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009. However, the crisis has affected the Southern African macroeconomy as a result of the sub-region’s intense integration into the world economy. Most conspicuously, falling tourism from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries and declining demand for manufactured goods, which reduced exports, led to employment losses where alternative markets could not be found. Africans and East Asians now account for an increasing share of total tourist arrivals. The overall macroeconomic impact of the global financial crisis on Southern Africa has been less than during previous recessions. This is largely due to the multipolarity of the world economy today, since China and India now represent major destinations for primary commodity exports. Demand from these two countries, together accounting for about one-third of the global population, remained buoyant. Indeed mineral prospecting and output have led to an expansion of the mining sector across Southern Africa until 2012 and 2013, to a degree compensating for industrial slowdown.


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