Colorful houses in Cape Town, Africa

Africa’s Urban Opportunity

Africa’s prospects over the next three decades will be determined largely by how well it manages rapid urbanization. Though the challenge is certainly daunting, the right approach can propel the continent toward a more stable, prosperous, and environmentally friendly future.

CAPE TOWN/NEW YORK – Africa’s prospects over the next three decades will be determined largely by how well it manages rapid urbanization. The challenge is certainly daunting. But the right approach can propel the continent toward a more stable and prosperous future.

Over the next 30 years, 22 million people annually will move to Africa’s cities. By 2050, Africa’s total urban population will stand at 1.34 billion people – triple the number in 2010. While urbanization is proceeding most rapidly in East and West Africa – for example, the population of Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, is expected to top 25 million in the next 15 years – the trend is apparent in all regions of the continent.

The payoff of the successful assimilation of new urban residents would be massive. Labor is generally more productive in cities, and the concentration of people in urban spaces generates markets and economies of scale in services delivery. The hope is that Africa’s commodity-driven economies can reap the same “urban dividend” that Europe, North and South America, and East Asia did during their respective urbanization phases.

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