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Africa's Urbanisation Dynamics 2020

Africapolis, Mapping a New Urban Geography

image of Africa's Urbanisation Dynamics 2020

Africa is projected to have the fastest urban growth rate in the world: by 2050, Africa’s cities will be home to an additional 950 million people. Much of this growth is taking place in small and medium-sized towns. Africa’s urban transition offers great opportunities but it also poses significant challenges. Urban agglomerations are developing most often without the benefit of policies or investments able to meet these challenges. Urban planning and management are therefore key development issues. Understanding urbanisation, its drivers, dynamics and impacts is essential for designing targeted, inclusive and forward-looking policies at local, national and continental levels. This report, based on the Africapolis geo-spatial database (www.africapolis.org) covering 7 600 urban agglomerations in 50 African countries, provides detailed analyses of major African urbanisation dynamics placed within historical, environmental and political contexts. Covering the entire distribution of the urban network — from small towns and secondary cities to large metropolitan regions — it develops more inclusive and targeted policy options that integrate local, national and regional scales of urban development in line with African realities.

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History, politics, environment and urban forms in Africa

The first part of Chapter 3 analyses the demographic, political and environmental factors that influence urban growth in Africa. Africa has transitioned from a period of demographic stagnation dating to the pre-colonial era to a period of positive growth in the colonial era, followed by exponential growth after independence. Since the beginning of the 2000s, globalisation has left its mark on settlement patterns. Political conditions have shaped urban phenomena — the impact of urban planning (or its absence) is visible in satellite imagery, and administrative boundaries often do not match those of existing agglomerations. Finally, environmental constraints like the availability of water or land have major influences on urban growth, as demonstrated by the agglomerations of the Nile River valley or in Rwanda. In the second part, this chapter highlights different “spatial attractors” (points, lines and surfaces) used to model urban dynamics. The analysis of growth factors and modelling reveals new aspects of urban growth in Africa: the increasingly blurred distinction between urban and rural, dispersed urbanisation and chaotic forms of agglomeration.

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