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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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Khan: Boko, Masisi are fake politicians

18th January 2021
Masisi & Boko

While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.

Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.

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Ookeditse rejects lobby for BPF top post

18th January 2021
LAWRENCE-OOKEDITSE

Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.

Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.

Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”

“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.

He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.

He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.

According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.

There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.

Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.

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BDP cancels MPs retreat

18th January 2021
President Masisi

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.

“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication.
The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.

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