Africa’s cities: opening doors to the world

Cities in Africa are growing rapidly and have a critical role to play in their countries’ economic growth. Improving conditions for people and businesses in African cities by aggressively investing in infrastructure and reforming land markets is the key to accelerating economic growth, adding jobs, and improving city competitiveness says this report. 

Urbanization is a source of dynamism that can enhance productivity and increase economic integration, says a new World Bank report, Africa’s Cities: Opening Doors to the World. If well managed, cities can help countries accelerate growth and “open the doors” to global markets in two ways: by creating productive environments that attract international investment and increase economic efficiency and by creating livable environments that prevent urban costs from rising excessively with increased densification. By generating agglomeration economies, cities can enhance productivity and spur innovation and national economic diversification. However in Africa, concentration of people in cities has not been accompanied by economic density. Typical African cities share three features that constrain urban development and create daily challenges for businesses and residents: they are crowded, disconnected, and costly. To support the development of cities that work—cities that are livable, connected, and affordable, and therefore economically dense—the report calls for policy makers to direct attention toward the deeper structural and institutional problems that misallocate land, fragment development, and limit productivity. Africa’s cities are quickly gaining in population. Urban areas contain 472 million people. That number will double over the next 25 years. The largest cities grow as fast as 4 percent annually. Productive jobs, affordable housing, and efficient infrastructure will be urgently needed for residents and newcomers.