SOU 88 - Urbanization and National Development Planning
PRESENTATION OF THE SESSION
Urbanization is a key defining trend for Africa in the twenty-first century. In a matter of just a few years, Africa will overtake Asia as the fastest urbanizing region in the world. By 2035, more than half of the population of Africa will be living in cities. Urbanization is rapidly and increasingly changing the economic, social, cultural and environmental dynamics of the continent. This paradigm shift presents unprecedented opportunities for African countries to harness the potential of agglomeration economies. Such economies thrive in an urban context. This, in turn, gives rise to an accelerated inclusive and sustainable growth if linked to structural transformation.
The discourse on Africa’s urbanization has tended to focus on its negative externalities or social dimensions. It is now increasingly recognized as an engine for economic growth and structural transformation. Still, in many instances, urbanization is viewed from the perspective of a functional lens in national development plans. The focus is often on a limited set of urban issues (slums, infrastructure, housing, environmental degradation and social services), and disconnected from the macro and multi-sectoral targets and priorities. Considering the significance of urbanization in Africa in terms of scale and impact, it is of paramount importance to accord it an elevated, strategic and multi-sectoral focus in national development planning. Only then can the enormous advantages of Africa’s rapid urban transition be harnessed to accelerate national growth and transformation priorities. The session will consider and discuss how African member States can integrate urbanization in national development planning more strategically informed by ECA’s unique tool and experience on the same.