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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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Social and environmental challenges

Northern Africa’s high rates of urbanization date to the 1930s, but accelerated from the 1950s onwards. Development policies adopted in the 1960s led to an exodus from neglected agricultural communities and a flow of manual labour to newly established urban industry. However, since the late 1970s the broader economic policies that informed regional, national and urban development growth strategies were heavily influenced by preconditions for funding support from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Although the resulting market-oriented economic reforms led to high rates of GDP growth across much of the sub-region they also caused higher socioeconomic inequality and marginalization, further entrenching and exacerbating existing structural inequalities, especially in the sub-region’s cities. 29

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