Urban African population set to rise sharply in next two decades – UN report
Africa’s urban population is projected to more than double by 2030, defying the global trend of slower growth in the number of residents of cities, a new report from the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) indicates.
The report shows that there will be about 759 million urban inhabitants across Africa by 2030, compared to an estimated 373 million last year, according to a press release issued by UN-HABITAT yesterday from its Nairobi headquarters. That year is also projected to be when the number of Africans living in cities matches the number living in rural areas.
The continent is undergoing a broader demographic change, the report noted, as the number of city dwellers rises steadily and the greatest growth occurs not in Africa’s largest urban agglomerations, but in the so-called “intermediate cities,” which have fewer than 500,000 inhabitants each.
UN-HABITAT said the implications of this swift urban growth within intermediate cities should be clear to policymakers.
“African governments should start strengthening the governance capacities of their intermediate and smaller cities so that these fast-growing towns will be prepared for [a] rapid increase in new and additional demand for urban spatial planning, urban housing, urban services and urban livelihoods,” the agency said.
Across the continent, the population distribution is uneven. East Africa remains the least urbanized region of the world, but its rates are growing rapidly than in any other part of Africa.
But everywhere the number of people is rising, including in the biggest cities. In 1950, Alexandria and Cairo, both in Egypt, were the only African cities with more than 1 million inhabitants. Today there are at least 43 such cities.
Meanwhile, in Bangkok, a UN official told a regional gathering on air quality management today that Asia-Pacific policymakers need to take a more integrated approach to managing urban growth to ensure that the region’s rapidly expanding cities are economically and environmentally sustainable.
Shaoyi Li, a senior environment officer with the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), told participants at the meeting that all too often policies are designed in isolation and aim to tackle single issues rather than take a holistic approach.