Monday, August 31, 2009

Will Africa soon become an Urban Continent?

According to the Economist, maybe so...

"…Africa is still something of a demographic outlier compared with the rest of the developing world. Long berated (or loved) as the sleepiest continent, it has now become the fastest-growing and fastest-urbanising one. Its population has grown from 110m in 1850 to 1 billion today. Its fertility rate is still high: the average woman born today can expect to have five children in her child-bearing years, compared with just 1.7 in East Asia. Barring catastrophe, Africa’s population will reach 2 billion by 2050. To get a sense of this kind of increase, consider that in 1950 there were two Europeans for every African; by 2050, on present trends, there will be two Africans for every European (see chart 1).

One African in two is a child. The numbers are such that traditional ways of caring for children in extended families and communities are breaking down…

Africa’s rate of urbanisation is the fastest the world has ever seen, says Anna Tibaijuka, the head of Habitat, the UN agency responsible for urban development. In 1950 only Alexandria and Cairo exceeded 1m people. When the city rush is done, Africa may have 80 cities with more than 1m people, plus a cluster of megacities headed by Kinshasa, Lagos and Cairo—none of which show signs of mass starvation. Intermediary towns of 50,000-100,000 people will soak up most of those coming from the countryside. Urbanisation is part of the solution to Africa’s demographic problems, not a manifestation of them."

The biggest question I have is whether African cities will adopt city planning methods to strategically plan and control growth and not let new development grow haphazardly as seen in other developing nations. There are several urban locales in South and Southeast Asia that have dense populations of 1 million people or more but they hard to define as cities. They appear to be more of a collection of dense high rise developments or communities that all function independently of each other. The same can be said of many current African cities today. Hopefully small African cities now that are expected to explode in population can implement plans now before they become overrun with major developments.

Another question I have for anyone to answer is how will Africa becoming a more urban continent change your perception of the continent?


indi-g0.1 said...

Your interest in the matter is heartwarming to know people out there still have a sense of logic, however, the world seems to continue to defy this five letter word. Personally, having lived in Cairo for the past year and a half, I would say that urban planning is not on the agenda for many 3rd world countries, simply because those in leadership positions do not care enough for their people except as commodities, that is, if they are not all vying for power themselves.
I should have some pictures up soon of the city on my new bloggue, but basically, Cairo city itself is the definition of chaos lost in a history of imperialism/colonialism, that even as they are currently developing a completely new section called New Cairo, nothing seems to be in order- nobody is considering the ramifications of the building process. There is definitely no plan for realizing the potential to be had in this new area- just a thought that new is somehow good.
I hope soon to have some experience photographing and interviewing the workers in New Cairo, as it would be very interesting to hear their side of the story... for the possibility of Africa changing worldly perceptions if able to become more urban, I think only then will they have caught up to the rest of the world, which will have already been moving on.....innovation will the be key in surpassing old & current thought for the motherland; relying heavily on unity and leadership for such a large continent to do so will take more than money (as we see it currently only feeds problems, not generating solutions... a larger topic to consider = 1st world countries leading by poor example feeds modes of corruption down through)......if Africa could supplant unified thinking first, urban planning would be the cherry on top, but there is hope...

To conclude- just as with Baltimore- places which often need the most change are in fact the best places to initiate just takes a calling of special people to lead the way for the lost souls.

Toure Zeigler said...

You know I believe Africa and other developing nations will come up with new innovative solutions for urban development that we have not seen before.

I also believe that for a lot of these cities to move forward, large parts of African cities will have to be demolished and rebuilt. All the mega-cities in Europe - London, Paris, Rome - all had to knock down large chunks of their city and redesign streets and corridors to keep the city from choking itself at some point in time. Many Chinese cities have down the same thing within this decade at a much more alarming rate.

I believe cities like Cairo, Lagos and maybe Johannesberg will have to do the same at some point.