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UN-Habitat African Union (AU) South African Government African Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development (AMCHUD)

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UN-Habitat, African Union, South African Government & African Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development (AMCHUD)

31 January – 04 February 2005
Durban, South Africa

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Urbanisation in Africa

  1. Urban areas will strongly influence the world of the twenty-first century, and urban and rural population will be increasingly interdependent for their economic, social and environmental well being. Among the economic and social factors influencing this process are population growth, voluntary and involuntary migration, real and perceived employment opportunities, cultural expectations, changing consumption and production patterns, displacement by conflicts and wars, and administrative reclassification of settlements. As humanity rapidly transforms to living in cities, the urban agenda will increasingly become a dominant global concern. By 2015, more than half of the world’s population is expected to live in 30 mega cities and 375 urban centres with 70 to be in sub-Saharan Africa. Africa’s urbanisation, which is presently growing at a rate of about 5% per annum, is one of the fastest in the world. By the turn of the second decade of this millennium, the population of the Africa continent would have increased fourfold to 500 million from 138 million in 1990, during which 200 million of the projected population would be living in cities.

  2. The popular position is that Africa is a rural continent and indeed at its present average urban level of 35%, it is the least urbanised continent. However, at its present rate of growth, Africa’s rate of urbanisation is two times faster than Latin America and Asia. Secondary cities continue to grow very rapidly, in many cases faster than the primary or capital cities. Consequently, over the next two decades, 87 per cent of the population growth in Africa will take place in urban areas. According to projections 55% of the people would be living in urban areas by 2007.

  3. For Africa as a continent, urbanisation is a strong and overwhelming force to be reckoned with, exacting tremendous pressures on economic and environmental sustainability, and creating unmet demands for basic urban services. The continent’s rising urbanisation poses a high challenge, because it is happening in the context of widespread poverty. Of the 20 countries classified as possessing the lowest human development index (HDI), 19 are in Africa. At the city level, sub-Saharan Africa has over 166 million urban slum dwellers, representing about 71.9% of its total urban population. In this context, there is a grave problem of increasing urban poverty with its attendant consequences on Africa’s social and political stability.

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