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The State of African Cities 2014

Re-Imagining Sustainable Urban Transitions

image of The State of African Cities 2014
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.

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Urban culture and change agents

If Northern Africa is to foster healthy urban democracies, its cities need to maintain space for social activism and political participation. The energy that was drawn politically into the “leaderless protests” that led to the initial uprisings in the sub-region and specifically into critical city locations that could accommodate large protests, must now seek more formal and programmatically structured avenues for expression in daily life to ensure the future stability of cities and regions. This must then set the foundations for political constituencies to form, and participate in, the new future of the sub-region. There must be no lapse into hastily conceived “electoral” democracies where institutions reproduce “more of the same” development; where technocrats dictate the nature of development; and, where no grassroots political constituency can grow. The opportunities for advocates of alternative policies, including those relating to urban development, will have to be seized if a relapse into the default mode of business as usual is to be avoided.

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