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.



Emerging issues

In water-scarce Northern Africa, access to the element is commonly viewed as a human right and scarcity increases contestation over this right. Sub-regional water supply restrictions are likely to intensify in the 21 st century. Resolving existing and potential tensions requires sub-regional cooperation around water resources, as well as actions to improve water use efficiency, recycling and reuse at city, neighbourhood and household levels. Even in Egypt, where precipitation is likely to increase, runoff is set to decrease due to higher average ambient temperatures. Rapidly increasing urban populations in Northern Africa will intensify these climate change effects. As urban areas expand and populations grow, so too does urban water demand. As cities sprawl, losses from water distribution infrastructures are also likely to increase, as will the cost of delivering water over larger distances. In Northern Africa, where there is water there are people, whether in cities or rural areas. For example, agricultural land is restricted to areas where water is accessible; whether through dams such as the High Aswan, or through rivers such as the Nile on whose banks are many cities.


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