Africa is going through economic and demographic booms and cities are at the heart of it. This boom is forcing cities to deal with stark social and environmental challenges including urban sprawl, infrastructure deficits, informal settlements and climate change. Future Cities Africa is an initiative launched by Cities Alliance and UK’s Department for International Development to help African cities achieve inclusive economic growth, manage demographic changes, and address environmental risks.
Arup’s Future Proofing City studies capture our work in nine cities in four African countries – Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique and Uganda. Using innovative tools to analyse the institutional and physical capacity, and environmental risks in each city, we aim to help cities better understand the specific challenges and opportunities they are facing. Our hope is that these city studies will in part help local municipalities, national administrations and international organisations realise the potential of these cities as inclusive centres of economic growth and job creation.
The city studies found similar processes of urban transition occurring: rapid economic growth together with fast-paced urbanisation and unregulated urban growth, in large part happening in relatively ‘young’ cities. Urbanisation is seen as a key driver for economic development although this is addressed through different national urban growth models. Each country is going through decentralisation, however this process is not complete and each country is facing unique challenges surrounding this. This urbanisation ‘explosion’ is also leading to similar challenges of service provision, informality, housing provision, natural resource limits and environmental pollution as well as more complex issues such as rapidly changing municipal boundaries and revenue collection.
Our reports end with a number of lessons for cities to ‘future proof’ themselves. Cities need to consider regional connectivity and recognise their ‘role’ within the national system of cities. Many cities will need to rethink their administrative boundaries to support future growth. Opportunities also exist around harnessing widespread informality and youthful populations. Emerging models of public-private partnerships are also helping fill infrastructure gaps. In the face of environmental risks, cities will need to pursue low-carbon development pathways and address tensions over the need for industrial development.