Half of the population of Eritrea live in its capital city, Asmara – © D-Stanley
Cities undeniably generate economic opportunities. The clustering of companies facilitates trade, exchange of ideas, and reduced infrastructure costs. The diversity accompanying urbanisation also generates lively environments, cultural hybridisation, and business innovation. However, the recent enchantment with cities often overoptimistically justifies policies that concentrate growth, while hinterland regions suffer neglect and lack of investment. In contrast, mature economies pursue geographically balanced development that has a history of supporting long-term growth.
Despite its challenges, rapid urbanisation remains the growth path of choice for Africa’s developing countries. According to the UN, 15 African cities will grow by 20 % or more between 2010 and 2025. Dar es Salaam, Nairobi, Kinshasa, Luanda, and Addis Ababa are all projected to grow by more than 60 % during the same period. Economic opportunities are luring African workers to large cities and their informal sectors, which now account for more than half of all employment. This migration will have transformational effects on national economies, as it already has in China, where an emerging middle class signifies upward mobility. The difference, however, is that China has several major coastal megacities to absorb such growth ; in African countries, there is often only one viable destination city for migrants.
Read the full OpEd by Kris Hartley, a visiting researcher at the Center for Government Competitiveness at Seoul National University on the Africa at LSE blog