Optimize opportunities presented by urbanization, ECA official tells African policymakers

AFRICA

Urbanization can play an immense role in the economic and social transformation of Africa hence the need for the continent to harness the phenomenon for a long-term inclusive and sustainable vision and goals by unleashing the potential of cities to be drivers of local, regional and national level economic and social development.

This was said Monday in Addis Ababa by Saurabh Sinha, Chief of Employment and Social Protection in the Economic Commission for Africa’s Social Development Policy Division (SDPD) to participants attending an experts group meeting on integrating urbanization in national development planning for inclusive and sustainable cities in Africa.

“However, while urbanization is necessary for structural transformation, it is not sufficient,” said Mr. Sinha, who was speaking on behalf of SDPD Director, Thokozile Ruzvidzo.

“The quality of cities can facilitate the growth of productive sectors, or can constrict it. In particular, the extent to which a city is productive and competitive matters.”

He said a strategic national response to the urbanization wave in Africa must be accompanied by strategic sectoral national policies that adequately factor spatial considerations.

“Such policies are important instruments to optimize the opportunities and minimize negative externalities of urbanization while being informed and guided by national development vision, goals and objectives,” said Mr. Sinha.

He pointed out that despite commitment at highest levels and the strategic importance of cities, the integration of urbanization into African national and regional policy frameworks as a cross-cutting factor had been limited.

Urbanization, he noted, is still being perceived from a compartmentalized viewpoint with focus on specific issues such as housing, infrastructure, slums and environmental degradation.

Mr. Sinha said concerns remained about the inclusiveness and sustainability of Africa’s growth in recent years as the continent continues to face a host of challenges, including high unemployment, inequality and poverty as well as high vulnerability to external shocks.

“There is wide agreement across the continent that the main challenge confronting Africa is therefore not only to maintain robust economic growth, but also to transform it into sustained and inclusive development based on a new economic model which is based on economic diversification, with a special focus on industrialization and modernization of agriculture,” he said.

Mr. Sinha said a key foundation for accelerating structural transformation was the formulation of long-term national development plans, adding evidence around the world suggests that linking economic and urban development generated positive interactions and spillovers that improve productivity and well-being.

Experts attending the meeting, including policy makers, are in the next two days expected to review and validate a report by the ECA’s SDPD on the integration of urbanization in national development planning on the continent.

The report aims to strengthen member States’ knowledge and capacities in integrating urbanization into national development planning frameworks and processes to promote inclusive and sustainable cities for Africa’s structural transformation. 

Distributed by APO on behalf of United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

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United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)
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