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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 planning and resource management

Resource pressures that threaten urban sustainability are referred to as urban resource pressures and include those to social, economic, environmental, physical and political stability. 123 Land pressure, resulting from high urban growth rates, is significant in the subregion. Western African cities typically consist of middle class residential areas surrounding central cores containing commercial, political and economic functions. Land values in urban centres are prohibitive to low-income residents who are forced to live in the peripheries and ecologically sensitive natural habitats such as wetlands and estuaries. This increases health risks, food insecurity and susceptibility to extreme events, such as flooding, for the most vulnerable of urban dwellers.

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