Cities Alliance think tank looks at African urban questions

Urbanisation has the potential to radically shift the development trajectory of the African continent. Currently, more than a quarter of the world’s 100 fastest growing cities are in Africa and uniquely in this region cities are growing at 5% per annum, faster than any other region globally (UN-Habitat 2014). By 2035 it is estimated that 50% of the continent’s population will be classified as urban. This dramatic rebalancing in national and continental population shares from rural areas to small towns and large cities has been accompanied by significant changes to the spatial form of African cities. Growing informality, porous settlement boundaries, poverty and unmet need for basic municipal infrastructure are just some of the features that characterise urbanisation on the African continent. These critical issues are also at the heart of policy discussions about how to manage and develop cities in ways that promote inclusion, sustainability, resilience for all city dwellers.

Agenda 2063—The Africa We Want is a flagship campaign of the African Union. This policy argues for using the opportunity offered by urbanisation and the demographic shift to fulfil the vision of an African renaissance. With urbanisation firmly on the agenda across Africa there is a need for a constructive policy dialogue on what exactly urbanisation in Africa might mean. To support such a process the Cities Alliance secretariat has awarded a grant to the African Centre for Cities (ACC) at the University of Cape Town to establish an independent think tank dedicated to this issue.

The Cities Alliance Think Tank had its first meeting on September 10, 2015. The ACC produced a set of video interviews with Think Tank members. These videos will be featured over the next few weeks. The first interview features Professor Alcinda Honwana, who has done extensive research on African youth. Honwana discusses the challenges of unemployment in Africa’s cities, lack of infrastructure, and opportunities for growth.

“This is a time when we have large populations of young people unemployed, marginalised and feeling deprived of their sense of belonging. At the same time we are living at a time when the connections between the continent and the rest of the world have never been greater,” she says. “It’s also a time when economically many African countries are experiencing growth, so there are opportunities. This think tank…is trying to establish a new narrative for what it means to be a city in Africa.”


Check back next week for the second installment in our interview series from the Cities Alliance Africa Think Tank.

Photo: Nairobo skyscraper. Flickr user computerwhiz417.

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