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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

Urban governance in Northern Africa faces a wide variety of challenges. The sub-region’s cities are chronically vulnerable to food and water insecurity as well as to global price fluctuations, especially for food and energy. Northern Africa’s countries are characterized by high levels of urbanization; large youth bulges; high incidence of poverty, inequality and unemployment; and (with the exception of Sudan) coastal settlement. Overcentralized and bureaucratized administrative systems reinforce the importance of political patronage as opposed to efficient governance, contributing to weak public service provision and management in urban areas. Selective urban policies, despite attracting foreign investment, have favoured established and politically connected businesses. The construction of gated enclaves and western-style malls for the affluent have led to displacement and fragmentation of some urban communities and their cultures, entrenching inequality in living standards and opportunities.

English

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