Urbanisation of hope or despair?

“International organizations often link rapid urbanization to poor living conditions in developing countries of Asia and Africa” (p:2). However, urbanisation should not exclusively be blamed for the current urban challenges in Africa. Other variables, particularly urban planning, should be considered.

As Brandful Cobbinah, Poku-Boansi and Asomani-Boateng argue in a recent article focused on Ghanaian cities, published in Urban Forum, African urbanisation has too often been seen as urbanisation of poverty. Still, there is very little evidence to “quantify the interactions between urban management challenges and urbanisation” (p:2).

The authors first recall that the demographic process of rapid urbanisation in Africa has recently been disputed (Obeng-Odoom, 2010). There are cases of counter-urbanisation indeed, like in Zambia, Ivory Coast and Mali, but also weak in-migration towards cities like in Benin and Mozambique.

Focusing on Ghana, the article argues that urbanisation per se should not become a concept that “all countries blame for their development syndrome but nobody cares about its positive implications” (p:5).

In order for African urban planning to have a meaningful impact on urban functionality and management, it needs to be distantiated from the relics of colonial and postcolonial planning. This means embracing an approach based on inclusiveness and spatial integration, rather than the “Western idealistic approach of orderliness and aesthetics” (p:3).

In Ghana, the practice of urban planning was introduced during colonial times. But it has not translated into an effective urban planning regime in in the present, especially due to a lack of support towards urban planning agencies since independence.

Nowadays, one of the most difficult aspects of urbanisation in Ghana, and in other African countries, lies in the consideration of urban residents’ aspirations and benefit sharing. These dual aspects of urbanisation in African cities presents a challenge in achieving the full potential of urbanisation, and requires a permanent emphasis on urban residents’ participation and a good understanding of local contexts. “Long-term financial and political support towards the implementation and enforcement of planning regulation” is also key, the authors note (p:16).

Article available from Urban Forum, November 2016 (sub required)

Image: ViktorDobai (flickr)


Publisher Urban Forum
Year 2016
Author(s) Patrick Brandful Cobbinah & Michael Poku-Boansi & Raymond Asomani-Boateng
DOI 10.1007/s12132-016-9293-9
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