Monday, 21 April 2008

The African Urban Environment: Megacities [Part 1]

* Part One of a New Series *

Over the next 20 years, Lagos, Kinshasa, Nairobi, Kampala, and Kano, are all likely to become megacities; at least by definition. Whilst this milestone is achieved in each of these centres of culture and trade, what will be the real impact upon the populous' and stakeholders within each society?

Megacities, starting with London and New York, have become synonymous with wealth creation and comsopolitain environments where varied global cultures, goods and services collide to create unique fusions characteristic of that city and that city alone. When one looks at the situation within the African continent, can we truly say that this is the predictable trend to be achieved?

Without proper planning, urban decay/squalor, slum expansion, and urban poverty, may become the watchwords on the lips of all who speak of Africa's 'megacities' in 2028 and beyond. This truly is not the legacy any of us will want to leave. It is high time that we begin the process of ground-up, integrated urban planning, leaving no stone unturned in the quest to create productive, enlightened and wealthy population centers in the hearts of the leading lights of the African world.

The people, businesses and governments of the continent will all be vastly better of for it, and our economies will be significantly deeper and more stable, allowing the average city-citizen to reap the benefits by way of trade, employment and security of lifestyle.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Population Expansion and Urbanisation...

Africa is expected to witness some of the highest rates of population growth in the world, especially in the years leading up to 2030-2050. Uganda, one of East Africa's larger economies, is said to have an annual population growth rate of 3.1-3.2%; one of the highest in the world. In 2007, Uganda is estimated to have a population of in excess of 30million people, where at independence in 1962 the country had fewer than 10million citizens. By 2025 Uganda could have witnessed its population almost double to very near 60million people, and amazingly, by mid century (2050), the country could have become the world's 12th largest nation by population with 130million citizens.

To put these statistics into some form of context, Uganda is a nation of just under 240,000, as compared to nations such as Japan (378,000, Russia (17million, and Nigeria (924,000 On the basis of the prior statistics, Uganda will have a population density of around 542 people/sq km by 2050. This is well above the 2007 figures for countries such as Japan, The Netherlands, South Korea and India.

As a result of these, and in-line with what the UN and various other organisations state, urban migration is set to take hold in a big way on the Continent. With such facts, it is clearly likely that there will be great pressures placed on both Uganda's and Africa's urban population centers.

Urban migration within nations with such high rates of natural population growth, is near-on certain to create a significant bulge in the growth-rates of the major cities of such nations. Taking Uganda as an example, the major cities of Kampala, Jinja, Mbale, Masaka, and Gulu, with only Kampala sized above a million residents (at c.1.3m people), could very quickly see a draastic change in this situation.

Being a landlocked country, Uganda relies heavily on international transportation infrastructure which deals with a great proportion of the country's exports. This being so, the inevitable push toward industrialisation coupled with the growing urbanisation process seems to be creating an environment perfect for the rapid expansion of three distinct categories of Ugandan urban areas. The first category would be the 'coastal cities' on the coast of Lake Victoria, spearheaded by Kampala (aided by Port Bell), Entebbe and Jinja. The second category of urban areas are the 'Victoria Nile cities' which line said river system, these being Gulu, Soroti and Lira. The third category would be 'transition cities' which border Uganda's neighbours and which act as key parts of Uganda's export trade market, these being Arua, Moroto, Mbale, Mbarara, and Fort Portal.

These factors, albeit projected in their actual effect, could see a conservative amount of 35% of the Ugandan population living in one of just four major urban areas in the country. If this is achieved by 2025, these four urban areas could account for 21million of Uganda's citizens; from under 2million in 2007. To provide some context, this figure would be just 6.5-7million people lower than the total population figure for the whole of Uganda in 2007 at year-end.

All these factors demonstrate how far the debate needs to shift, as well as how fundamental and paradigm-changing these future patterns could turn-out to be.

Friday, 21 December 2007

How big is Africa really...

750 million... 800 million... 920 million... a billion? Who knows for sure what the true population of the African continent is? How can we know when accurate and timely census' are so few and far between? And if this is the case, how can we even hope to plan properly in response to these factors?

By the most accurate figures, Africa has around about 900 million people within. We are also told that the average population growth-rate is about 2.4-2.5%. This could very well be closer to 3-3.4% per annum. The combination of rapidly improving birth survival rates, reduced mortality, and stable birth rates, could soon move Africa onto the higher-end of this spectrum of population growth rates, mostly due to the impact of a number of 'key population centers'.

At such rates, Africa could be home to close to 1.3 billion people by 2020; that's the size of China in 2007, and almost 1 and a-half times the size of Africa's 2007 population figure. By 2040, the continent may be home to 2.2 billion people; close to the combined populations of the twin Asian giants of China and India in 2007. Thats a lot of people to provide for,
' especially when no-one is planning for them and the services & infrastructure they will require.'

How will our urban services cope? What about the rural areas? Agriculture? There must be multitudes of impacts on these and others, caused by such risea in population burdens.

Can we honestly say the continent is really planning correctly? Right now, it doesn't look that way...

Africa's future...

How would you imagine Africa in 2008? Same as 2007? In perpetual war? Another famine somewhere? Maybe you can envision a renewed push toward modernisation and development? Whatever your outlook on Africa in 2008, in the grand scheme of things the year will go by so quickly, it would be as if it did not count.

The real question here should really be where we all see Africa in 2015? In 2020? 2030? How about mid-century in 2050? These are the dates and time periods within which we will witness real changes. However the changes we want to see are what we need to focus on.

In order to make an impact Africa; this meaning government and citizens alike; needs to be planning for the long-term, over long enough periods to put our plans into action and each play our parts. Maybe 2008 needs to be the 'Year of futurology in Africa'?

Looks like it might be time to start dreaming...

Welcome to the ZBM '21st Century African Cities' Blog

Welcome to this new blog. Over time, it will become the repository and melting pot for various ideas, theories, practical applications, as well as varied musings related not only to the modern African city, but to the African village, town and state.

The blog will mostly feature my own musings on various theoretical, economic and academic thoughts relating to the previously mentioned fields, while every once a while, there may be direct quotes and interviews with leading practitioners and professionals in their fields.

May this project be successful and productive, and provide an insight into the current position and development paths available to Africa today.