Impacts of Africa’s Urbanization as an input to sustainable Development


“Unless guided and regulated properly, today’s development and growth will be tomorrow’s burden “

By: Tesfaye Tariku Debessa

Somalilandsun – Urbanization, Urban Poverty and Slum are often connected, and posed major challenges to developed and developing nations alike, but these challenges are more pronounced in developing nations. Urbanization has been a major demographic trend because of the relative increase in both social and economic development that is presently resulting in the uncontrolled population growth of major countries, some of which are manifesting unnecessary pressures on available infrastructure, environmental degeneration, traffic congestion, housing shortages and high level of crimes. Urban Poverty equally posed a great challenge to urban sustainability in developing countries because most of the poor in the cities suffers social exclusion, unemployment, homelessness, lack paid income and vulnerability to environmental risks and poor health, while the end result of these challenges and manifestations are the growth of slums, squatter settlements, shacks, dirty run down housing that are already becoming permanent structures in Africa specifically in Countries growing very fast.
Because these are the countries that faces these challenges the more, where there exists housing shortage in quantitative form, environmental pollution, traffic problems, huge pressure on existing infrastructure such as water supply, electricity supply, healthcare facilities, bad roads, high level of criminal activities, kidnapping, high level of unemployment among others and while at the same time, examined the factors responsible for these challenges in the urban centres. However, practicable recommendations are proffered as to the interrelation and opportunities that can be harnessed among these challenging issues, so as to ensure sustainable urban development and growth in any rapidly developing African countries.
Nevertheless, resistance to regulated and predefined urbanization remains a serious obstacle to the sustainable development of many cities around the world, many national governments, and even development agencies, focused on the negative aspects of cities – overcrowding and slums – instead of trying to unlock the efficiencies of urban agglomerations that would enable them to capture and pass on the economic advantages to the countries at large.
Governments have to accept urbanization as inevitable and desirable, for no country has achieved wealthy status without urbanization; though urbanization itself is not enough to achieve economic growth.
We must urgently find ways to achieve economic and socially equitable growth without further cost to the environment. Part of the solution lies in how cities are planned, governed, and provide services to their citizens. When poorly managed, urbanization can be detrimental to sustainable development. However, with vision and commitment, sustainable urbanization is one of the solutions to our ever growing African population. Efforts to create jobs, reduce ecological footprint, and improve quality of life are most effective when pursued holistically. By prioritizing sustainable urbanization within a broader development framework, many critical development challenges can be addressed in tandem such as energy, water consumption and production, biodiversity, disaster preparedness and climate change adaptation.

Indeed, cities are important economic forces not just for themselves, but to the entire nation. When they are well-articulated with the national and provincial governments and their own development agendas are linked to regional and national development plans, when investments from central governments are aligned with local investments, cities can yield critically important results for the nation as a whole.
Cities can prioritize investments in social safety nets and local and regional infrastructure development to ensure longer-term growth that in turn can stimulate consumption.
Moreover, cities have the capacity to deal with underlying problems of the African economy, addressing issues of growing inequality through redistributive policies implemented in close collaboration with central governments. Cities can influence political leaders to respond to local and regional priorities proposing very clear outcomes and ways to measure them. Policy performance of cities in social, economic, environmental and political areas is clear in many accounts and different latitudes. When working at city scale, resources can be used more effectively and higher levels of accountability.
Sustainable Urban Development AfricaTherefore, sustainable development going on as a result of urbanization, the role of urban planners is very crucial. Because any development or growth without plan is a dream and end up in negative consequences at the present and future as well. The main purpose of the planning system is to contribute for achievement of sustainable development.
Therefore, to ensure sustainable development the three dimensions to sustainable development must be maintained: economic, social and environmental. These dimensions give rise to the need for the planning system to perform a number of roles:
 an economic role – contributing to building a strong, responsive and competitive economy, by ensuring that sufficient land of the right type is available in the right places and at the right time to support growth and innovation; and by identifying and coordinating development requirements, including the provision of infrastructure;
 a social role – supporting strong, vibrant and healthy communities, by providing the supply of housing required to meet the needs of present and future generations; and by creating a high quality built environment, with accessible local services that reflect the community’s needs and support its health, social and cultural well-being; and
 an environmental role – contributing to protecting and enhancing our natural, built and historic environment; and, as part of this, helping to improve biodiversity, use natural resources prudently, minimise waste and pollution, and mitigate and adapt to climate change including moving to a low carbon economy.
These roles should not be undertaken in isolation, because they are mutually dependent. Economic growth can secure higher social and environmental standards, and well-designed buildings and places can improve the lives of people and communities. Therefore, to achieve sustainable development, economic, social and environmental gains should be sought jointly and simultaneously through the planning system. The planning system should play an active role in guiding development to sustainable solutions.
Plans and decisions need to take local circumstances into account, so that they respond to the different opportunities for achieving sustainable development in cities. Care should be given for today’s development.
Tesfaye Tariku DebessaUnless guided and regulated by predefined planning strategies and tactics, today’s development will be tomorrow’s burden that may retard and end up in economic, social and environmental crisis concludes author Tesfaye Tariku Debessa, an Ethiopian -Urban Planner currently based in Hargeisa Somaliland where he lectures at a local University email –
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