An urban lens on national development planning in Africa: a guidebook for policymakers

Urbanization is a key defining trend for Africa in the twenty-first century. In a matter of just a few years, Africa will overtake Asia as the fastest urbanizing region in the world. By 2035, more than half of the population of Africa will be living in cities. Urbanization is rapidly and increasingly changing the economic, social, cultural and environmental dynamics of the continent. This paradigm shift presents unprecedented opportunities for African countries to harness the potential of agglomeration economies. Such economies thrive in an urban context. This, in turn, gives rise to an accelerated inclusive and sustainable growth if linked to structural transformation. The urban transition that is unfolding is momentous. It must be planned and managed in a prudent and prescient manner, however, as such a transition has the potential to exacerbate challenges, including poverty, inequality, unemployment, climate change and environmental degradation. Moreover, the urban transition is matched by a demographic transition, which is characterized by increasing youthful populations. The trend is prevalent in most countries in the continent. It offers a time-limited dividend that is yet untapped. It may also cause significant unrest, however, if the needs of the young, urban population are not met adequately, including in terms of employment, mobility and housing.

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