The World Bank Group (WBG) say African governments have to prioritise strengthening of land management institutions, and coordinate investments in infrastructure, “if they are to make their cities more efficient, and achieve economic growth.
“African cities were closed to the world in that they produced few goods and services for trade on the regional and global markets,” the World Bank Group stated in a report titled: “Africa’s Cities: Opening Doors to the World”.
Mr Ede Ijjasz- Vasquez, Senior Director for Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice at the World Bank told newsmen during a press launch of the report through a video conference from the WBG headquarters in Washington.
He said the report had found that African cities were crowded, disconnected and costly, which made them inefficient.
He explained that African cities were crowded with people living in unplanned and informal areas close to jobs, had small disconnected neighbourhoods with inadequate transport linkages that separate people from economic opportunities and were costly for both residents and firms owing to these factors.
He said in order for Africa to ensure economic growth, there was the need to reform land markets, clarify property rights and institute effective urban planning.
“What cities do today will determine their productivity and performance for decades to come,” he said, adding that while African cities were urbanising fast, economic growth did not match the pace of that urbanisation, as seen in cities in other regions.
“In 1968 when countries in the Middle East and North Africa region became 40 per cent urban, the per capita GDP was $1800…and in 1994 when countries in the East Asia and Pacific region surpassed the same threshold, their per capita GDP was $3,600.
“By contrast, Africa with 40 per cent urbanisation today has a per capita GDP of just $1000,” the report notes.
Mr Albert Zuefack, World Bank Chief Economist for Africa, who represented the Vice President for Africa, said Africa will add 187 million people, the size of Nigeria, to its urban population by 2025, making ‘extremely challenging’ for its cities.
He said cities needed to be at the forefront of diversification in Africa, especially in the manufacturing of regionally and globally tradable goods and services, which was necessary to boost productivity and to enhance entry into regional and global markets.
“It is by reducing the cost of living in African cities that firm can become competitive,” he said, adding that the World Bank was committed to supporting African countries to surmount the challenges facing its cities.
He also emphasised the strengthening of institutions of land management saying it was very critical to enforce laws and empower institutions to do so.
Mr Zuefack also warned that most governments in Africa were creating special economic zones, such areas should not increase the disconnection in African cities. “We need to reduce the distance between places of work and living”.