Africa has witnessed unprecedented economic growth since the beginning of this century. Against the background of serious political, socio-economic challenges including extreme poverty, disease and high infant mortality and civil strife, Africa collectively pulled a GDP of US $1.6 trillion in 2008, almost equalling that of Brazil or Russia, and it is estimated to peak US $2.6 trillion by 2020. With a projected annual growth of 5.8 percent from 2014 to 2019, Africa ranks among the fastest growing economic regions in the world. Much of its recent growth has been generated by internal political and economic reforms that have created domestic political stability and market driven environment; commodity and oil exports, thriving domestic consumer face sector (telecoms, consumer goods and banking), and agricultural activities.
AFRICAN CITIES AS ENGINES OF ECONOMIC GROWTH
The rapid economic growth of Africa has been accompanied by a strong urbanization wave. With 52 cities that have over 1 million people – equal to Western Europe – African cities have become a growing economic force. Today, 40 percent of the continent’s one billion people live in cities – a proportion roughly comparable to China’s population and higher than India’s. The continent has 54 nation states and a population of 1.033 billion – the second largest and most populous continent on earth. While its urban population is projected to rise to 50 percent by 2030, its cities to increase by 32 during the same period, Africa’s top 18 cities are projecting a combined GDP of $1.7 trillion.
This increase will support the continued growth of the “consuming class,” which is projected to hit 128 million households by 2020, making Africa a pivotal market of the future for companies in a range of industries. Keeping pace with this growth and creating cities with a high quality of life will demand heavy investment in infrastructure, housing, and commercial space by 2030. As in other developing economies, the investment associated with developing the necessary urban infrastructure alone could create tens of millions of jobs, while new technologies can deliver vital education and health services to more remote areas.
Although the rapid urban growth in African countries creates opportunities for millions of people, it also generates massive challenges for governments, which need to expand their provision of basic services, guarantee a better quality of life, promote employment generation, protect the environment and deal with the challenges of climate change. Already, the unregulated African urban cities have become associated with sprawl, waste, crime, violence, inefficiency, pollution, disease and increasing vulnerability to climate change. Therefore, ensuring that African cities function as efficient engines of economic growth is critical to the Continent’s sustainable economic development, a more urgent demand in view of the permanent shortage of resources for investment and the consequent need for efficient fiscal management.