Ivan Turok (2013). Unleashing the Economic Potential of Agglomeration in African Cities. Nairobi: UN-Habitat.
This report focuses on one of the crucial questions of our time – the relationship between urbanisation and economic development. Rapid urbanisation in Africa threatens disaster if it multiplies the problems of destitution, disease and degradation. However, it could become a transformative force for higher productivity, entrepreneurial dynamism and rising prosperity. The report discusses the new mood of optimism about Africa’s economic prospects and highlights the need to align economic growth and urbanisation agendas. Evidence from around the world suggests that linking economic and urban development can generate positive interactions that improve economic outcomes and human wellbeing. Ignoring the spatial implications of economic trends heightens the risk of imbalanced, exclusionary and destabilising effects. The report reviews the arguments for the economic advantages of cities and the international evidence relating to the strength of agglomeration forces. It also considers the relevance of these arguments to Africa and discusses some of the main ways in which governments can help to realise the economic potential of cities. The nature of urban planning, policy-making and investment in infrastructure will influence whether cities become more productive, or whether their burgeoning populations come up against overwhelming social and ecological limits to growth.