African Cities to Triple in Size

Projected population in African cities in 2020. Photo via BBC News.

Much of the growth of cities this century will take place in Africa, particularly sub-Saharan Africa. Already the region has about 200 million people living in slums, the highest number in the world, according to the United Nations. It was a little over a year ago that the continent’s population topped a billion; by early 2040, a billion people alone are expected to live in the continent’s cities.

A publication released in November by UN-Habitat, “The State of African Cities 2010: Governance, Inequalities and Urban Land Markets,” examines trends in population growth, improvements in slum conditions in North Africa, rising sea levels, the economic potential of urban areas, and mobility in sub-Saharan slums. Staggeringly, by 2030, the continent will no longer be majority rural, a projection which is due in part to agricultural reform and more economic opportunity in cities. In fact, urbanization is happening faster in Africa than in anywhere else in the world. To plan for cities as being the future homes for most Africans, the report suggests:

… now is the time for spending on basic infrastructure, social services (health and education) and affordable housing, in the process stimulating urban economies and generating much- needed jobs. Deferring these investments to the 2040s simply will not do. Not a single African government can afford to ignore the ongoing rapid urban transition. Cities must become priority areas for public policies, with investment to build adequate governance capacities, equitable services delivery, affordable housing provision and better wealth distribution.

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This article originally appeared at The City Fix. is an online resource for sustainable transport news, research and “best practice” solutions from around the world. Launched in 2007, the site connects a global network of writers and transport specialists, including engineers, entrepreneurs, urban planners and researchers, who explore environmentally and socially responsible ways to make cities better places to live.