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African cities are not economically efficient

World Bank’s Africa’s Cities: Opening Doors to the World report says typical African cities share three features that constrain urban development and create daily challenges for residents:

Crowded, not economically dense- investments in infrastructure, industrial and commercial structures have not kept pace with the concentration of people, nor have investments in affordable formal housing; congestion and its costs overwhelm the benefits of urban concentration. Disconnected- cities have developed as collections of small and fragmented neighbourhoods, lacking reliable transportation and limiting worker’s job opportunities while preventing firms from reaping scale and agglomeration benefits.

Costly for households and for firms- high nominal wages and transaction costs deter investors and trading partners, especially in regionally and internationally tradable sectors; workers’ high food, housing and transport costs increase labor costs to firms and thus reduce expected returns on investment. The report underlined that 55% of African households face higher costs relative to their per capita GDP than do households in other regions- much of it accounted for by housing, which costs them a full 55 per cent more in this comparison.

In eight representative African cities, the report cited that roads occupy far lower shares of urban land than in other cities around the world.it said 20% of African cities are more fragmented than are Asian and Latin American ones. In Harare, Zimbabwe, and Maputo, Mozambique, more than 30 per cent of land within 5 kilometres of the central business district remains unbuilt. According to the World Bank report, 472 Million people live in urban areas. That number will double over the next 25 years as more migrants are pushed to cities from the countryside.

The largest cities grow as fast as 4 per cent annually. Urbanisation benefits people and businesses by increasing economic density. A worker in an economically dense area can commute more easily and consume a broader range of products. Firms clustered in cities can access a wider market of inputs and buyers. Scale economies reduce firms’ production costs- in turn benefiting consumers.

Population density is indeed strongly correlated with indicators of liveability- in sub-Saharan Africa as elsewhere. Yet Africa’s cities are not economically dense or efficient. They are crowded and unliveable. The report indicated that most urban residents are packed into low-rise, informal settlements without adequate infrastructure or access to basic services. Two of every three people in Lagos, Nigeria dwell in slums. Thus, even though households in densely populated areas of Africa are better supplied with services than rural households, the mere fact of higher population density does not imply a liveable environment.

Why do a majority of people in Africa’s cities live in slums? The immediate explanation is that the urbanization of people has not accompanied by the urbanization of capital. Housing, infrastructure, and other capital investments are lacking, especially outside the city center. Urban building stocks have low replacement values. Across Africa, housing investment lags urbanization by nine years.

It was shared that the population density of African cities is similar to that of many cities elsewhere. What is holding these cities back is their low economic density- the lack of thriving urban markets that depend on adequate infrastructure and conveniently connected clusters of residential and commercial structures. A dearth of capital and capital investment keeps Africa’s cities inefficient and less productive than they should be, limiting firms and workers to the production of goods and services for small and local hinterland markets locking them out of much more lucrative regional and international markets.

Many of Africa’s urban workers live in crowded quarters near the city center. In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 28% of residents are living at least three to a room; in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, the figure is 50%. According to the report, the reason for this crowding is that most people must live near the downtown district or industrial zones if they hope to work. They cannot conveniently commute from outlying areas, because little or no affordable transportation is available.

Africa’s cities also suffer from a lack of adequate formal housing around the urban core. Consequently, people settle in relatively central informal settlements that are densely populated, ill served by urban infrastructure, and, by many measures, unliveable. Paradoxically, Africa’s cities are sparsely built and laid out but feel crowded.

The report highlighted that the crowdedness of African cities is most apparent in their slums. On average, 60% of Africa’s urban population is packed into slums- a far larger share than the average 34% seen in other developing countries. It shared that high rates of slum living within urban areas are characteristic of most African countries. Only two countries, Zimbabwe and South Africa, fall below the non-African average. The proportion of Africans living in slums is not high because Africa has higher urban population densities than other countries. The average population density of African cities tracks the global average; it ranks third among seven global regions.

Further, it was underlined in that report that people are clustering downtown locations not because of the amenities or decent jobs they can access in central locations. These patterns reflect broader dysfunctional ties in land markets as well as limited investments in transport infrastructure, limiting the choices that people can make on where to live and how to access jobs.

Capital investment in Africa over the past 40 years has averaged about 20% of GDP. In contrast, urbanizing countries in East Asia- China, Japan, and Korea-stepped up capital investment during their periods of rapid urbanization. The report said between 1980 and 2011, China’s capital investment rose from 35% of GDP to 48%; during roughly the same period, the urban share of its population rose from 18% to 52%. In East Asia as a whole, the report noted, capital investment remained above 40% per cent of GDP at the end of this period, helping the region become very dense economically.

The report said these contrast underline that Africa is urbanizing when poor- indeed, strikingly poorer than other developing regions with similar urbanization levels. It said supporting rising population densities in African cities will require investments in buildings, and complementary physical infrastructure: roads, drainage, street lighting, electricity, water, and sewerage, together with policing, waste and health care. In the absence of higher levels of capital investment at around Asian levels, the potential benefits of Africa’s cities are being overwhelmed by crime, disease, and squalor.

Furthermore, overcrowding increases exposure to communicable diseases. Inadequate drainage increases the risk of malaria, and lack of sanitation raises the risk of dengue. Lack of access to clean water is a leading cause of diarrhoea, which is responsible for an estimated 21% of deaths among children under five in developing countries- 2.5 million deaths a year, the report said.

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Free at last: Ian Kirby Speaks Out

6th December 2021
Justice Ian Kirby

The outgoing President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ian Kirby, shares his thoughts with us as he leaves the Bench at the end of this year.

WeekendPost: Why did you move between the Attorney General and the Bench?

Ian Kirby: I was a member of the Attorney General’s Chambers three times- first in 1969 as Assistant State Counsel, then in 1990 as Deputy Attorney General (Civil), and finally in 2004 as Attorney General. I was invited in 2000 by the late Chief Justice Julian Nganunu to join the Bench. I was persuaded by former President Festus Mogae to be his Attorney General in 2004 as, he said, it was my duty to do so to serve the nation. I returned to the Judiciary as soon as I could – in May 2006, when there was a vacancy on the High Court Bench.

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Civil society could rescue Botswana’s flawed democracy’ 

6th December 2021
Parliament

Botswana’s civil society is one of the non-state actors that could save the country’s democracy from sliding into regression, a Germany based think tank has revealed.  This is according to a discussion paper by researchers at the German Development Institute who analysed the effects of e-government usage on political attitudes In Botswana.

In the paper titled “E-government and democracy in Botswana: Observational and experimental evidence on the effects of e-government usage on political attitudes,” the researchers offer a strongly worded commentary on Botswana’s ‘flawed democracy.’  The authors noted that with Botswana’s Parliament structurally – and in practice – feeble, the potential for checks and balances on executive power rests with the judiciary.

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Bangwato at loggerheads over Moshupa trip

6th December 2021

Bangwato in Serowe — where Bamagwato Paramount Chief and former President Lt. Gen Ian Khama originates – disagree on whether they must send a delegation to dialogue with President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s family in Moshupa. Just last week, a meeting was called by the Regent of Bamagwato, Kgosi Sediegeng Kgamane, at Serowe Kgotla to, among others, update the tribe on the whereabouts of their Kgosi (Khama). 

Further, his state of health was also discussed, with Kgamane telling the attendees that all is well with Khama. The main reason for the meeting was to deliberate on the escalating tension between Khama and Masisi — a three-year bloodletting going unabated.

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