Why Urbanization Matters for Africa: From MDGs to the Post-15 Development Agenda

Authors: Remy Sietchiping a, John Omwamba b and Claude Ngomsi c
UN-Habitat, Nairobi, Kenya
Corresponding author: Remy Sietchiping,
a Leader, Regional and Metropolitan Planning Unit- UN Habitat,
  1. O Box 30030-00100 Nairobi:
b Regional and Metropolitan Planning Officer - UN Habitat,
P.O box 2150-00200, Nairobi, Kenya:
 c Human Settlements Officer- UN Habitat, Kigali, Rwanda
Abstract: The structural and transformative change in Africa is currently shaped by the way in which countries embrace urbanization.  By committing to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable in the Post-2015 agenda, member States of the United Nations have marked a net difference from and transition with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Urbanization is now recognized as one of the key levers of socio-economic transformation. This paper unpacks the evolution of urbanization agenda from a sub-indicator in MDG to a standalone goal in Post-2015 development agenda. The implication of the evolution of the global discourse on urbanization for Africa is also discussed. Africa is an extremely relevant case because of the sheer development challenges and opportunities while experiencing rapid urbanization. The paper is also addressing how Africa can capitalize on the renewed interest on urban issues in the context of the Post-2015 development agenda to harness the positive transformation of urbanization to address pertinent issues such as poverty, inequality, regional integration and demographic transition. Reviewing various reports, we first highlight urban dividends of MDGs for Africa. Particular attention is paid to the social issues that had been tackled. We also explain why in many African countries, slums have continued to undermine some of the development efforts. Second, we outline how, where and which progress had been made on MDGs in African cities and countries. Third, we ‘localize’ the potential gains of the Sustainable Development Goal 11 and related supporting goals, targets and indicators for Africa. Finally, we identify key levers of change to maximize the urban benefits such as urban policies, good urbanization governance, and territorial and urban planning that foster the land administration and spatial economies of agglomeration.
Keywords: urbanization, poverty, urban policy, economy of agglomeration, partnership


The world is undergoing rapid urbanization. At the global scale, more people currently reside in urban areas than rural areas (UN Habitat, 2013). The population balance between urban and rural areas has been shifting over time. In 1930 for instance, only 30% of the global population was urban and by 2008, half of the world’s population was urban (Soja & Kanai, 2007; UN Habitat, 2013). Currently, the urban population stands at 54%; a proportion projected to rise to 66% by 2050 (UNDESA, 2014). Africa and Asia form the least urbanized regions in the world respectively, but have the fastest global urbanization rate KPMG (2012), postulated that over the next 40 years, these two continents will account for 86% of the cumulative global urban growth. For instance in Africa, the urban population uprose from a meager 15% in 1960 to over 40% by 2010. This growth is projected to reach 60% by the year 2060 (UN Habitat & UNEP, 2010).
In 2000, 189 member countries of the United Nations set eight development targets, commonly known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).The MDGs aspired included:
  • Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  • Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
  • Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
  • Goal 4: Reduce child mortality
  • Goal 5: Promote maternal health
  • Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases
  • Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
  • Goal 8: Global partnership for development
In Africa, Urban areas provided the best platform to address all the issues to be tackled by MDGs (Seth & UNDP, 2010; United Nations, 2015a). However, urbanization was not perceived as a transformative force to engineer and steer the achievement of the MDGs. Cohen (2006) noted that MDGs presented a missed opportunity for most of Africa to promote development and eradicate poverty through better management urbanization.
As MDGs expire later in 2015, there are proposed a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); that comprise of development targets proposed to guide global development between 2015 and 2030 as successors of MDGs (Kharas & Biau, 2014). The SDGs also aim to support Least Developed Countries through financial and technical assistance programmes to build sustainable and resilient settlements; exploiting local materials (United Nations, 2015c).
The objective of this research paper is to elucidate on the vital role of urbanization in Africa’s growth. It involves a critical appraisal of urbanization trends in Africa to explore the course urbanization has had in Africa, impacts, gaps and opportunities realized. There is a review of how these have been harnessed to promote development. An extensive analysis of research papers, cases studies and requisite urban development literature were used to draw data and informed deductions on Africa’s urban future, its prospects, potential threats and viable ways to transit from the MDGs to SDGs.
The first section of the paper after the introduction will highlight the implications of urbanization for Africa. Section two will explore the evolution of urban settlements in Africa towards sustainability. Section three will highlight the dividends that have been realized due to MDGs in Africa with particular regard to the urban scene. Finally, the forth section will look at the potential of SDGs to promote socio-economic development in Africa.
  • Urbanization in Africa: Trends, Causes and Implications
Urbanization is a composite term; that generally indicates the growth of a town. According to (Paddison, 2001) and (Tacoli, 2006), many authorities define an ‘urban area’ using population size thresholds, population size coupled with population density, the proportion of the population engaging in non-farm activities, through administrative or political status of an area, or using a list of areas defined as ‘urban’ in census reports. On the other hand, Peng, Chen, and Cheng (2000)  explain urbanization as the process by which rural areas become urban; or as towns and cities expand due to economic development. Demographically, it implies the redistribution of people from rural places to urban areas (Obudho, 1996b).
Urban growth in Africa has occurred through natural population growth, conversation of rural/peri-urban areas into urban areas and rural-urban migration (UN Habitat, 2014). In contemporary Africa, rapid urbanization is mainly prodded by rural- urban migration. This demographic phenomenon is caused by push and pull factors. Push factors make farming and rural economic activities difficult, forcing people to move to urban centers in search of viable livelihoods include rural poverty, diminishing land sizes and agricultural productivity, diminishing natural resources, unequal distribution of land, natural disasters and water shortage (Gugler & Flanagan, 1978). Pull factors attract people to move into urban settlements. They include; high wages and salaries from employment, joining fellow rural folks in towns, perceived freedom from strict communal lifestyles and better access to social services and infrastructure (Obudho, 1996a).
Since the 1996 Proclamation of the Habitat Agenda and the Istanbul Plan of Action, the demographic domain of Africa has undergone profound growth, at the rural and urban scales (Kharas & Biau, 2014). For most urban areas in Africa, the urban population is expected to triple in the coming 50 years. This growth is coextensive with development trends in most emerging economies and developing countries; the economies of most African countries grew by more than 5% annually (World Bank & I.M.F, 2004). In the global arena, most countries’ urban areas contribute more than 50% of the GDP (some countries’ have an urban GDP contribution of upto 80%)[1], indicating that density is requisite for large scale economic prosperity (J Vernon Henderson, 2000; UN Habitat & UNECA, 2008). Urban growth is thus necessary to sustain accelerated economic growth and shared prosperity in Africa and the developing world (J. V. Henderson, 2010; Venables, 2010; World Bank, 2008; World Bank & I.M.F, 2014).
Figure 1: Africa’s Urban and Rural Growth from 1950 and Projections to 2050
Source: Adapted from UNDESA (2014)
Cities form the highest sophisticated pinnacle in human social organization (Tarver, 1994). In many countries, they form a benchmark of development due to their multi-functionality (KPMG, 2012). Urbanization has led to an emergence of exciting growth prospects due to demographic factors and advantages of agglomerated economies. Provision of goods and services in urban spaces is cheaper than rural areas where the population is dispersed. There is abundance of labor and market for goods with a high purchasing power.(Peng et al., 2000). Cities have over time become centers of innovation, wealth, creativity and invention (KPMG, 2012).
As cities grow, the level of complexity also increases (Fernando, 2003). Apart from prosperity in cities, inadequate infrastructure and poor planning  and management of many cities in Africa have snowballed into many vices in cities such as high levels of unemployment, poverty, slum development, inadequate infrastructure, insecurity, poor quality of life of most urbanites and poor access to urban basic services (UNECA, 2014). Paddison (2001) asserts that this can be achieved by promoting the growth of highly productive economic activities within cities and managing the impacts realized due to urbanization such as congestion, regional inequalities and rising living costs such as of land and housing (Spence, Annez, & Buckley, 2009).
In the 21st century, urbanization is one of the single most transformative forces that the continent will experience (African Union & I.M.F, 2012). The urban population in Africa is projected to triple in the next 50 years, thus extremely changing the demographic profile of many African countries and exerting new development challenges to policy makers (Monga & Lin, 2015). This presents a golden chance to realize sustainable urbanization (AfDB, 2013). Innovations for African urban challenges will play another key role to generate appropriate urban development models that will lead African cities into prosperity (World Bank, 2013). This will ensure that in every African nation, the growth of urban settlements is used as the main policy tool to eradicate poverty and promote living conditions of their citizens (Cohen, 2006)[2].
Urban growth primarily leads to more people moving into urban areas (Brown & Montgomery, 1986). The influx, however, reaches an optimum point where a city’s economy, infrastructure and services can no longer support the growing demand for employment. The production systems become imbalanced because attendant services cannot be adequately offered to the urban dwellers. Congestion effects become commonplace in the city’s urban facilities. Infrastructure and services no longer cope. People are exposed to environmental hazards because critical services like water, sanitation, transportation and management of solid waste become inadequate and mostly available to the middle and high income segments of the urban society. Social stratification becomes more evident and the vulnerable sink deeper into desperate measures to survive. Slums become alternative housing solutions (Tarver, 1994).
            In most African countries, urbanization is taking place in secondary cities and tertiary urban centers that have less than half a million settlements. They are poorly serviced on basic urban services and critical infrastructure to cope with urbanization. Essentially, many urban settlements in Africa are grappling with urban growth. Pragmatism that will be injected into the growth of urban areas in Africa to counter changes in the environment, population growth and climate change pressures will define how African cities endure the growth test (UN Habitat & UNECA, 2008).
The World Bank posits that 75% of global poverty is found in Africa. By 2011, this consisted of 415 million Africans (World Bank, 2013). This has been contributed by gender imbalances, income and rural-urban disparities which have destabilized the nexus between growth and poverty reduction efforts (Falola & Mbah, 2014). In the State of African Cities Report (2008), it was noted that urban poverty was rising. Addressing gender and rural-urban inequality and resource distribution will be a vital move to actualize poverty reduction and ensure progress is realized in urban and rural Africa; during the transition between MDGs and SDGs.
Figure 2: Global share of poverty of developing regions
Urban centers in Africa have discernible incidences of informality, poverty and inequality; that eventually lead to dense slums and informal settlements (UN Habitat, 2014). The MDG 7 Target 11 sought to have achieved significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by the year 2020. Large proportions of urban populations residing in informal settlement make revenue collection low and subsequent provision of urban services, infrastructure and planning of urban settlements crippled. In East and West African cities, informal settlement dwellers are growing fast amidst rising literacy. This presents an opportunity as well as a time bomb to the unemployed masses; most of them youths (Kharas & Biau, 2014). Careful management of urban settlements to upgrade and prevent new slum development will be important to solve the challenges that have not wholly been addressed by MDGs.
Shifting labour from rural areas creates gaps in labour supply in rural settlements as relatively old people are left to contribute to the rural economy. (Jelili, 2012).The sudden bulge of an unemployed youthful urban population proliferates into a high rate of unemployment and high incidences of insecurity in African cities and towns. Congestion of the limited urban facilities ensue and eventually, pollution takes root in many urban enclaves such as poor solid waste management, contamination of water and air pollution due to informal activities (Kayizzi-Mugerwa, Shimeles, & Yaméogo, 2014). The economic and demographic problems in Africa are exasperated by threats of urban food insecurity, energy insecurity especially in countries with heavy reliance on imported crude oil and hydroelectric power sources and anticipated sea level rise that is postulated to affect 12% of Africa’s urbanite population living in low elevation zones along Africa’s coastline (UN Habitat & UNECA, 2008).
UN Habitat has observed over time that more than 25% of the world’s top 100 fastest growing cities are in Africa; the fastest growth scenario after Asia; and Africa will house an urbanization level of more than 50% by 2035 (World Bank & I.M.F, 2013). Despite measures instituted to address urban challenges in Africa, the problems have been observed to deteriorate in places with high urban growth rates such as South Africa and Mozambique where poverty and inequality still persist. Bloemfontein, Buffalo City and Johannesburg in South Africa for instance have the highest Gini co-efficient globally (World Bank & I.M.F, 2014)[3]. These observations have been attributed to governance, institutional and legal inefficiencies that are inadequate to meet contemporary urban development needs (Agyei-Mensah, Owusu, & Wrigley-Asante, 2015).
Table 1: Fastest Growing Cities in Africa
Global RankCity/Urban AreaCountryAverage annual growth
2006 to 2020, in %
9Dar es SalaamTanzania4.39
31Addis AbabaEthiopia3.40
57East Rand (Ekurhuleni)South Africa2.89
94AbidjanCôte d'Ivoire2.49
Source: Data from Citymayors.com [4]
Despite the urban growth patterns, there are rising concerns whether Africa will be ready to cope with the growth as many urban areas have been unable to cope with the growth pattern (UN Habitat, 2014). UNECA (2014) observes that there is an urgent need for African governments and local authorities to institute key institutional and infrastructure reforms that will manage the growing urban sectors in respective countries. Without deliberate and informed decisions, the new urban dwellers are for instance likely to reside in slums and informal settlements, with limited access to livelihood opportunities, a case that will create an undesirable situation and a recipe for urban chaos (Collier & Venables, 2014).
The urban transition of Africa is a critical determinant of the development scenario in its Post 2015 Development period (Jenkins, 2013). With a projected growth in its urban population, how it addresses urbanization will play a key role in propagating or depreciating the urban development dividends. For sustained positive urban development, the future urban Africa requires efficient urban centers that produce industrial goods, high value services and seamless transportation to link the urban and rural areas to territorial and global markets (World Bank, 2009). The growth and development of Africa will thus depend on the seamless transition from MDGs to SDGs and will rely to a great extent on how urban growth is harnessed to realize sustainable and inclusive development for all in Africa (Frey & Zimmer, 2001).
  • The Urban Africa: Evolution of Human Settlements Towards Sustainability
During the formulation of Millennium Development Goals, urbanization was addressed in goal 7: Ensuring environmental sustainability. This was divided into three targets (targets 9, 10 and 11). Target 10 and 11 addressed urban issues directly. Target 10 sought to halve by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. Its indicators were (30): proportion of the population with sustainable access to improved water source in urban and rural areas while; and (31): proportion of people with access to improved water and sanitation in urban and rural areas. Target 11 sought to have by 2020 achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers worldwide. The sole indicator for this target was (32); the proportion of households with access to secure tenure (Bourguignon et al., 2010; UN Development Group, 2003).
In the formulation of the SDGs, the drafters noted that sustainable urban development and management are vital in the quality life of people living on the planet. It was thus prudent to include an urban goal in the Post 2015 Development Agenda so that a clear framework was provided to engage local authorities and all communities in the sustainable management of their settlements (World Bank, 2014). Due to the emerging crucial role of urbanization; more especially in the developing world, sound management of urbanization will be a key tool to tackle environmental impacts of development and promote sustainability in human settlements thus ultimately tackling climate change (United Nations, 2015c).
 The Post 2015 Development Agenda contains 17 goals and 179 targets. Goal 11 popularly referred to as the Urban SDG seeks to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable; with a list of 3 targets. This goal identifies the role of metropolitan and territorial planning in creating synergistic links to the environment, human settlements and economic activities in urban, peri-urban and rural areas.
  • Making African cities more sustainable
Sustainable urbanization in Africa is being adopted in paucity. However, the African city is being faced by a fast growing economy, abundance of natural resources in many African countries and exponential influx of youthful people into the city. In essence, industrialization is growing, environmental stress is growing, natural resources are running out in many urban centers; especially those center on extractive industries and impacts of climate change are being felt in many urban centers. This calls for sustainable urbanization to ensure the economic and urban growth, high living standards and environmental sustainability of the continent is sustained (UNECA, 2014).
In many African cities such as Nairobi, there is a ‘colonial hangover’ in the planning and management of the cities, where zoning practices have been used in the post- independence period to perpetuate exclusionary urban management (Allouche, 2015). Majority of the people have been excluded from deciding the best development options of many cities, leading to social stratification of the city and rising inequalities. Besley and Cord (2007) noted that wealthy neighborhoods get most services, while the urban poor are excluded from urban services and critical infrastructure, plunge deeper into poverty, have insufficient infrastructure and majorly operate in the informal sector.
Recently, the urban reform agenda has been spearheaded by organizations such as the World Bank and UN Habitat to streamline urban management for better living and working conditions of urban dwellers (Castells-Quintana & Royuela, 2013). Measures aimed at disaster risk reduction, acceleration of economic growth, provision of services to all urban dwellers, decentralization of urban services, promotion of local governance and inclusive management of the city have been addressed in the reform debates and the results have been positive (Ayre & Callway, 2013).
African cities need to adopt compact urban settlements with integrated land uses that will limit the need to commute. This will greatly aid in reduce the carbon foot print of cities and bolster measures to promote climate change resilience, mitigate against and combat climate change impacts. Present rigid low density developments are only bound to yield conurbations and urban sprawl, which in undesirable. Human rights also will define the prosperity of the future African urban society, because they seek to build equitable societies (Munang & Mgendi, 2015).
  • The opportunity and challenge in Africa’s urbanization
Growth in many African cities is mostly happening in secondary and other emerging urban settlements, thus presenting a unique opportunity for policy makers and urban planners to get the ‘urbanization’ idea right. Although, this opportunity is fast slipping away and the tragedy of poor urbanization is bound to recur (World Bank, 2013). Cities create unequaled opportunities such as compact human settlements; easy access to labour and markets, job opportunities for the people and cheaper provision of services to the people due to economies of agglomeration. When the urban fabric is managed well and sustainably, the urban area has lucrative gains for any country (Annez, Buckley, & Kalarickal, 2010). On the other hand, the urban area is a hot-bed of congestion of urban infrastructure, inadequate labour in rural areas due to outmigration, slum proliferation, insecurity and other social vices; if it is managed in a freewheeler manner (UN Habitat & UNECA, 2008).
The city is a place where a lot of problems are concentrated; but the city also has the resources to overcome these problems and be the place of development.”  - Prof. Valentino Castellini, Italy, 1998
  • Dividends of MDGs in Africa: The urban context
The MDG monitoring and tracking indicators have assisted countries to have comprehensive development and poverty monitoring systems that have enabled countries develop poverty reduction strategies aimed at the right sectors and areas (World Bank & I.M.F, 2014). Such urban and rural disparities help governments decide on areas to invest development funds to unlock opportunities for growth and provide the requisite services such as health and education.
Interventions to eradicate poverty have made positive strides in many urban areas of Africa than rural areas, indicating that there is a higher degree of success in urban poverty eradication schemes than rural schemes. For instance, by 2012, rural poverty was three times higher than urban poverty in Morocco, Egypt, Ghana, Cape Verde, Zambia and Rwanda. In Gambia, studies done in 1992, 1998, 2003, 2010 and 2014 indicate that poverty has persistently been higher in rural areas than urban areas; and in 2010, rural poverty was twice than urban poverty. This is attributed to better employment opportunities in urban areas (Republic of the Gambia & UNDP, 2014)
On achieving universal primary education, school-aged children in rural Africa are half as likely to complete education as their urban counterparts; indicating that the urban area has provided better opportunities and facilities for children to complete their primary education in Africa (UNECA, AfDB, & UNDP, 2013). In Tanzania, the abolition of school fees in primary schools  as a poverty reduction strategy helped boost school enrolment in primary schools from less than 50% in 1999 to universal enrolment in 2008 (World Bank, 2014).
On maternal health, there are disparities between urban and rural areas. Women in urban areas are more likely to access maternal health services than rural areas. Urban health services are more likely to have attendance of a skilled health professional which has led to improved deliveries in Sub Saharan Africa. The use of contraception to as a birth control mechanism and a protection method towards HIV/AIDS indicated that urban areas of Africa scored well against the rural areas, where the uptake of contraception was lower. This experience has been exacerbated by dynamics of education levels and wealth/poverty levels between urban and rural areas (AU Commission, AfDB Group, UNECA, & UNDP, 2013).
Access to safe drinking water is improving, but access to sanitation for all is a challenge. Since 2000, 24% of the continent can access to improved safe potable water sources. By 2012, 49 African countries had over 80% of their citizenry accessing potable water and only 19 countries had less than 50% access. Sanitation is still a challenge because. Only North Africa (Algeria, Cape Verde, Egypt and Tunisia) had achieved this target by 2012. Its though notable that since 2000, Africa has made a progress in this target by improving sanitation by 20% (UNDP et al., 2014). Urban dwellers in Africa are more likely to have access to water and sanitations services than their rural counterparts. For instance, progress in providing safe drinking water was faster in urban areas of Angola, Niger, Djibouti and guinea Bissau. Though provision of water has been a challenge  in many countries, Tunisia managed to provide sanitation facilities to its small cities and rural settlements using a ‘reed bed’ system (AU Commission et al., 2013).
On human settlements, one in three persons from the developing regions such as Africa lives in slums. Slums are epitomized by absence of basic services like improved sanitation, potable water tenure security; and durable and crowded housing. In sub-Saharan Africa, the proportion of people living in slum conditions in urban areas was 62% in 2012 (United Nations, 2014). By 2014, the proportion of slum dwellers in Africa had reduced to 30%. However, inadequate land and inappropriate housing policies continue are leading to more slums in Africa. Northern Africa has the least slum prevalence rate in Africa at 11%, a significant reduction from 20% in 2000. Sum Saharan Africa has the highest slum prevalence (of 55% in 2014), which is a 10% reduction since 2000 (United Nations, 2015b).
Figure 3: Developing countries’ proportion of urban population living in slums (1990-2014)
Plate 1: A slum in an urban area
Source: Source: World Bank and I.M.F (2014), 46
Overall, an assessment of MDGs progress in Africa indicates that urban areas perform better in most indicators than rural areas of Africa. Though this shows an area to be concerned of in addressing development at urban and rural contexts, this is evidence that urban areas are better placed to promote development than rural areas (World Bank & I.M.F, 2013). However, for balanced urban and rural growth, the matrix must be balanced through metropolitan and territorial planning, to ensure that the unique needs of the urban, peri-urban and rural area are addressed (Akkoyunlu, 2015).
  • The post-2015 development agenda and socio-economic transformation in Africa
The SDGs are drafted with a precept that the world is urbanizing and major efforts to realize sustainable development; will require more efforts directed at urban areas. Goal 11 is dedicated to urban issues: “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”. This will be realized by supporting programmes for positive growth in the social, economic and environmental aspects of the urban, peri-urban and rural fabric. This goal will be attained through prudent national and regional development planning.
The proposed SDGs seek to end poverty and hunger, secure education, health and basic services for all, achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, reduce inequalities within and between countries, foster inclusive growth, shared opportunities and sustainable lifestyles for all, promote safe, inclusive  cities and human settlements, protect the planet, fight climate change, sustainably use natural resources and safeguard oceans, strengthen governance and promote peaceful, just and inclusive societies and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development (United Nations, 2015c).
In the implementation of MDGs in Africa, inequality undermined the efforts to reduce poverty in the continent (Allouche, 2015). The post 2015 Development Agenda has presented an opportunity for Africa to transform its economies, address human settlement issues anew, and tackle urbanization, climate change, slum proliferation, poverty and other development issues challenging its development. As a newly urbanizing continent, Africa has the perfect chance to learn from other countries that have succeeded and avoid the unsuccessful urbanization practices (J. Vernon Henderson & Storeygard, 2014). The urban oriented goals in SDGs are in concurrence with AMCHUD[5]’s position paper on urbanization Habitat III; which avers that Africa’s urban landscape is developing into large urban agglomerations and should be used as frontiers to steer African countries into middle income economies[6].
According to the official zero draft SDGs released by the United Nations (2015c), the Urban SDG 11 can be used as a springboard to approach other goals because they all touch on the urban area. SDGs offer many opportunities for policy makers and development partners to galvanize efforts to eradicate poverty and other development challenges (United Nations, 2015a). These can’t be achieved without strong commitments and institutions to eliminate barriers to sustainable urbanization at national and local levels (Joshi, Hughes, & Sisk, 2015).
The improvement of multi-actors coordination of integrated spatial planning and implementation of development agenda shall be ensured to optimize the use of limited financial and skilled human resources.   To make this happen, national governments in collaboration with development partners shall set mechanism to enhance policies coherence to align urban population growth with a progressive transformation of the municipal finance and the national economy. These require social and political stabilities.
The wave of flexible or rather elastic limited presidential terms constitute the main reason for inertia characterized by the lack of entrepreneurships and prudent investment by foreign entrepreneurs. As pointed out by Joseph Siegle (2015)[7] “If Africa can institutionalize respect for term limits, politics on the continent will enter a new era of predictability, with far-reaching implications for the rule of law and stability”. Observations of the management of level political transition in Senegal, Burkina-Faso, Burundi, Kenya and sooner Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda are evidence of this.
The style and spirit of the people and the attitude of the rulers are unpredictable and therefore the opportunities to access funding from financial institutions are very limited and interest rates very high. In Africa, the interest for the housing mortgage loan varied from 7% in Cameroon to up to 18% in Rwanda for standard or social housing. In more than 80% of countries this is between 11 to 19% in commercial banks. In such a situation, knowing that the housing and construction industries are key for job creation and development of industries, it is upon Africans’ leaders to take embark, in an irreversible process, to lead a results-based approach to sustainable development with focus on urbanization determinants and opportunities. The adequate identification and use of innovation and knowledge to boost economic growth is necessary (Oyelaran-Oyeyinka & Sampath, 2009).
  • Conclusion
The implementation of MDGs is on the homestretch. It has faced series of setbacks that ought to be addressed during the transition between MDGs and SDGs. It is thereby of utter importance that African central and local governments, continental bodies such as the AMCHUD and African Union Commission, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and global bodies such as UN Habitat and other development partners in the urban arena such as Cities Alliance develop or cause to be developed policy instruments that will guide African countries to sustainably develop their urban areas in the Post 2015 Development era. This will be in line with Africa’s Vision 2063 and the Post 2015 Development Agenda. The opportunities offered by urbanization to attain SDGs for sustainable development in African economies must not be missed (World Bank, 2013).
Urbanization in Africa has been a crucial tool that has brought to the fore good opportunities to provide basic needs and services to urban dwellers in Africa at affordable costs and has been a major driver of development. Majority of most countries’ GDPs were generated in urban areas. In Kenya for instance, Nairobi has been contributing more than 50% to the country’s GDP. Forces that come to interplay in the urban areas create a conducive
Reform in urban and territorial planning and development in Africa needs to be bolstered using evidences, adequate legal and policy documents, promotion of implementable institutional reform, responsible decentralization of urban services, promotion of co-operation with and among urban development partners, tailored made capacity building at the urban management level, closing of the inequality gap and urban governance. These will ultimately lead to more equal urban settlements, which are compact, resilient to climate change, responsive to human rights and more connected. UN Habitat is steering this role through the development of inclusive National Urban Policies (NUP) in this respect; but more effort is needed to make the effort succeed. How Africa will perform in the urban development scene in the next ten to twenty years will greatly depend on how African countries harness the power and build on positive proceeds of urbanization. Collaborative approach to harmonize top-down regulatory frameworks and bottom-up urban growth strategies must be well understood and enhanced by all parties to ensure sustainable urbanization to meet the post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals.



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[1] More information can be accessed from the KPMG Report on Africa: The Role of Cities in Africa’s Rise
[2] More information available in: McKinsey Global Institute. 2010. Lions on the Move: The Progress and Potential of African Economies. McKinsey& Co.
[3] The Gini coefficient, or Gini index, is “the most widely used summary measure of inequality.”  For a basic introduction to the Gini index refer to: UN-Habitat (2010/11). State of the World’s Cities 2010/11: Bridging the Urban Divide, United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN Habitat, London, Sterling, VA. Box 2.2.1, Page .62
[4] http://www.citymayors.com/statistics/urban_growth1.html : The tables provide assumed annual growth rates for the top 100 cities and urban areas between 2006 and 2020. The assumptions are based on past growth/decline and forecasts by international and national statistics organizations
[5] African Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development
[6] More information available on: Agence Francaise Development (AFD). 2008. AFRICAPOLIS. Urbanisation Trends 1950-2020: A Geo-Statistical Approach.  West Africa
[7] J. Siegle.2015. Why Terms Limits Matters for Africa