The State of African Cities 2014

Re-Imagining Sustainable Urban Transitions

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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.



Emerging issues

Urban areas within Southern Africa are increasingly vulnerable to disasters. It is estimated that flood-related disasters affected 3.43 million in Mozambique, 310,000 in Zimbabwe and 90,000 in RSA between 1999 and 2004, many of whom were poor urban dwellers. 167 Disasters such as the 2007 drought in Lesotho and the January 2012 tropical depression “Dando”, followed by cyclone “Funso”, have impacted almost all Southern African areas. Such events create cascading adverse impacts on food security, health, economic activity, housing, settlements, critical urban infrastructure and key urban functions. Inadequate early warning systems; lack of preparedness; as well as outdated and insufficient land use planning and building codes increase risk, especially for the poor and vulnerable in cities. 168 Further, as urban population and service provision pressures continue to mount in Southern Africa, low-level hazards are intensified through high social vulnerability levels. 169


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