In less than 15 years, by 2035, half of Africa’s population will be living in cities and urban areas. Between now and 2035, it’s estimated that 380 million persons will be added to Africa’s urban population. While this significant growth might sound prosperous to the continent, it’s not all good news. For starters, there are not enough jobs in the formal sectors in the city to support this volume of people. To overcome this challenge, swift measures to plan and manage urbanization are required. These are just some of the housing issues that are highlighted during the upcoming Africa Housing Forum on May 12-14, 2022, in Nairobi, Kenya. Organized by Habitat for Humanity Africa, the inaugural forum will serve as a platform for stakeholders engaged in seeking solutions to improve access to safe, affordable, and inclusive housing.
Considering the youthful population
Different countries are at various stages of economic development. But what sets Africa apart is its youthful population. It is particularly noticeable in the cities and towns. Most of the youths are involved in precarious makeshift and entrepreneurial work. As a result of this trend, it requires growing the scale and scope of businesses in African cities to incorporate them.
Opportunity for sustainability
Approximately 60% of the GDP of the continent is now produced in cities. Another way to look at this figure is that the African economy will be jeopardized if these challenges aren’t addressed. Only Africa, which is not so much embedded in the current economic system, can adopt a different trajectory that is also sustainable. It can also be more carbon responsible with a minimum footprint on the environment.
What are the challenges?
There are multiple challenges the African continent is facing. They include the informal housing issue. There is about a 50 million gap in affordable housing on the continent. There are also infrastructure deficiencies of all sorts. Some examples include water, sanitation, roads, solid waste, to name a few. There is, of course, the question of climate change. This issue primarily impacts the poorer populations that live at the periphery of cities.
The need for data
On the topic of inclusivity, a dialogue on the rights to the streets, housing, integration, and employment is often raised. When safety is brought up, it introduces a discussion of urban security, transportation, and health. These issues are most evident in the small and medium settlements. However, the biggest problem is that there is not enough data covering them. There needs to be an emphasis on developing a database for the small and medium-size cities so that more information can get collected and action can be taken.
What is the answer?
Figuring out how to develop national urban planning in a way that addresses green industrialization and climate change adaptation is the magic that is required for governments to be effective in dealing with cities and urbanization. They must empower city governments to do their jobs. The lifeblood of cities would be voices that allow people within African cities in their associations and various forms of collective activity to give expression to civic capacity. They also require a civic perspective on governance and the running of the cities they call home.
It is imperative for African governments to recognize the economic potential of urbanization. They also need to investigate integrating urban and spatial development into their national economic and planning policies and investments. Take part in the discussion by registering for the Africa Housing Forum via africahousingforum.org. . There are both in-person and virtual options to attend. You can also spread the word on the challenges facing Africa by sharing this article.