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The State of African Cities 2014

Re-Imagining Sustainable Urban Transitions

image of The State of African Cities 2014
The African continent is currently in the midst of simultaneously unfolding and highly significant demographic, economic, technological, environmental, urban and socio-political transitions. Africa’s economic performance is promising, with booming cities supporting growing middle classes and creating sizable consumer markets. Despite significant overall growth, the continent continues to suffer under very rapid urban growth accompanied by massive urban poverty and many other social problems. These seem to indicate that the development trajectories followed by African nations since post-independence may not be able to deliver on the aspirations of broad based human development and prosperity for all. This report, therefore, argues for a bold re-imagining of prevailing models in order to steer the ongoing transitions towards greater sustainability based on a thorough review of all available options. That is especially the case since the already daunting urban challenges in Africa are now being exacerbated by the new vulnerabilities and threats associated with climate and environmental change.

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Urban culture and change agents

Urban culture and identity in Central African cities are characterized by religion; a significant youth bulge; circular migration; and long histories of conflict. Urban ethnic segregation persists amidst the diversity of people, languages and cultures in Central Africa. Cameroon’s 285 indigenous languages 65 are an indication of this diversity. The high urban ethnic diversity opens opportunities for the exploitation of ethnic identity and conflict over belonging, marginalization, exploitation and denigration of those perceived as “strangers” in Central African cities (e.g. migrants). National identities are used as strategies for inclusion and exclusion. 66 Decentralization of governance in Cameroon has arguably led to further urban ethnic exploitation, such as in the coastal city of Limbe, 67 and ethnic confrontations have increasingly taken place in Central African cities.

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