There is a welcome new narrative about Africa as a continent on the move and verging on economic take-off. The old assumptions of political mismanagement, economic failure and entrenched poverty have been replaced by an optimistic scenario of growing prosperity rooted in stable democracies. Some expect parts of Africa to follow in the footsteps of China, Brazil and India, and become a new growth pole in the global economy. This is associated with a variety of factors, including major new discoveries of oil, gas and minerals, rising foreign investment in expanding consumer markets, accelerated investment in infrastructure from Asia, and the spread of new technologies such as mobile telecoms.
Of course many of the old problems have not disappeared since Africa remains the worldâ€™s poorest continent, with average life expectancy below 50 in many countries. It is also experiencing the fastest rate of population growth in the world. This is most apparent in its cities, which suffer from serious constraints on energy, water, food and other resources. Africaâ€™s urban population is set to double over the next 20 years to reach over 750 million, which will be more than the number of city resi- dents in the whole western hemisphere today. The juxtaposition of resurgent national economies and mounting urban pressures prompts the obvious question of whether these two trajectories can be better aligned in order to ensure sustained and inclusive development. Put simply, can African cities develop a broader and more durable economic base founded on tradable industries?
Despite the enormous significance of Africa’s economic turnaround and the looming challenges facing its cities, there has been almost no systematic research on urban economic issues over the last decade. The purpose of this special issue of Local Economy is to make a modest contribution to understanding these 21st century patterns and processes with some fresh insights and evidence. Is there a substantial economic dimension to Africa’s burgeoning cities? What are the obstacles to accelerated growth of the real economy? What are the gaps in knowledge about urban economic dynamics on the continent? And what kinds of policies would help to harness the development potential of African urbanisation to ensure shared prosperity?
This issue of Local Economy explores these questions.
|Publication Type||Journal article|