According to UN-HABITAT, African cities must prepare to host half a billion people over the next twenty years. The move towards urbanization is an opportunity for new sources of jobs, urban people being net consumers of the services and goods they need on a daily basis; to eat, to house, to move, to recreate, to heal, to educate, etc. In general it is the informal sector and imports which provide the answers to most of these needs of citizens in African cities in the absence of formal structures for the production of goods and services. Urbanization therefore presents itself on the continent as a major challenge, but also and above all as an opportunity to develop the sector of the modern economy in order to meet the present demands of the populations.

To do this, Africa, which has the youngest population in the world and predominantly urban, needs attractive cities to create modern jobs and realize its future potential, this is why the continent must assume a leading role on the urban thematic. The new urban agenda suggests that these cities are more equitable for people and goods.

For the Brookings Institution in its latest report entitled “ForesightAfrica2020”, the New UN-Habitat Urban Agenda called HABITAT III “suggests that these cities are more equitable for people and goods. They are well planned, housing is affordable and devoid of spatial segregation; residents are well connected to opportunities and to each other; it is both possible and useful to walk, because sprawl is restricted, sidewalks are priority, pollution is low, energy is sustainable, technology is used creatively and all people are welcome (except maybe criminals, because these cities are supposed to be safe). All of these aspects are in some way related to the shape of cities. “

If since Habitat I (1976), almost 45 years, the international community which has taken up the issue of the rampant urbanization of the world, has remained powerless to stem the massive growth in the number of people living in precarious neighborhoods and under-equipped, particularly in Africa. Is Africa’s desire to redefine the nature of its relations within the continent and with the rest of the world in line with the realization of the New Urban Agenda?

According to African experts, Agenda 2063 (African Union, 2015), which can be read as Africa’s contribution to various global political objectives and processes, takes into account the urban transition of Africa which is considered as an opportunity to achieve the objectives set out by the African Union (AU) in its long strategic vision for an “integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, led by its own citizens, and representing a dynamic force on the international scene”. This Agenda 2063 presents in these great aspirations to the number of 7, great similarities with the international summits of the United Nations convened in 2015 and 2016, on disaster risk reduction (Sendai), on financing for development (Addis Ababa) , on the sustainable development objectives for 2030 (New York), the climate summit (Paris) and Habitat III (Quito). These aspirations foreshadow “the future we want for Africa”. For example, Aspiration n ° 1 provides that “cities and other establishments are centers of cultural and economic activities, equipped with modern infrastructure, and where populations have access to all essential basic services, including housing , water, sanitation, energy, public transport and ICT ”.
In addition, Agenda 2063 defines a ten-year implementation program that enables it to transpose into continental law the resolutions of international agreements on urbanization.
Despite taking into account the recommendations of international agreements in the plans for implementing Agenda 2063 and the awareness of many political leaders on the continent of the importance of cities in the economic development of countries, many deficits persist :
– the deficits of the African continent in terms of infrastructure weaken its industrial development and highlight the sinking of its manufacturing added value. Rapid urbanization offers the opportunity to invest in sustainable infrastructure that can make cities productive and competitive, creating platforms where the private sector can thrive, and where talents and FDI from around the world can produce for markets local and for the rest of the world;
– agricultural added value remains very low by world standards, due in particular to limited agricultural investment, which in turn is responsible for the insufficient coverage of the irrigation network and rampant food insecurity. Rapid urbanization offers the opportunity to strengthen investment in the agricultural sector beyond the increase in public investment allocated to agriculture to the tune of 10% of national budgets, in accordance with the recommendations of the Maputo Protocol, and d ‘increase the productivity of the sector, reduce imports and feed African cities and the world;
– despite certain advantages such as the moderate motorization of cities and the fact that African cities and metropolises are generally compact, they suffer from a lack of systematic planning or from the non-implementation of plans carried out according to the rules of the art. Rapid urbanization offers the opportunity to fill the gaps in the urban fabric and to densify cities to improve accessibility;
– despite the opening of debates in the process of international agreements to a variety of public and private non-state actors who embody the new strength of cities, these agreements are above all produced for countries and their contextualization at the level of local authorities and local governments are largely lacking and undermines their effective implementation;
– the absence of non-state actors engaged in African countries (associations, NGOs, think thank, etc.) capable of disseminating the conclusions of these agreements in all the social strata of the nations makes popular adhesion and implementation difficult effective implementation of these agreements at regional level.



Cities are engines of countries economic development. Posted on December 12, 2017,  an article from the newspaper “Jeune Afrique” reported the World Bank’s conclusions on Lagos city’s 2016 development forecast. Its GDP was estimated at $US 136 billion, higher than that of Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Cameroon combined. A city can be more productive than one or more countries at a time. However, the city of Lagos, with a large deficit in urban infrastructure, exploits only a tiny fraction of its economic potential, as in most cities in Africa. For example, it fails to provide a safe and economical energy for its inhabitants and industry, imposing the use of generators, which among other things, makes expensive the cost of living and the prices of local businesses products, etc…


No country in the world has developed without urbanization and only a tiny number without industrialization. Experts from China and Southeast Asian countries say that no country can eradicate poverty without industrialization. Cities, concentrate modern economic activities; industry, services with high added value and high technology. The latest example of country that tailored its urbanization for economic development is China. In 2013, 690 million Chinese lived in cities for less than 200 million in 1980. At this rate, they will be one billion in 2030. In 2010 China had 94 cities with more than one million inhabitants; forecasts are of 143 cities with more than one million inhabitants in 2025, an increase of 52% in 15 years. This ultra-rapid urbanization coupled with export-oriented industrialization policies has made this country the world’s factory and the world’s second largest economy. With vigorous government intervention and the implementation of coherent policies, it has also been able to attract and use Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) in its mega-cities, to build and develop its own scientific and innovation ecosystem, becoming within 40 years period of time a scientific and world-class technological power, a military and space player, leapfrogging Europe, which took 200 years to industrialize. According to JLL a real estate development company, Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen are among the 20 most innovative cities in the world.

The default in this rapid industrialization process is that, it is based on the massive use of coal as a source of energy, abundant and less expensive, but extremely polluting and dangerous for the climate,. According to the WHO, seven (7) of the most polluted cities in the world were in China in 1998.


With the adoption of the “new silk roads or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)” policy in 2013, China has embarked on another phase of its economic development, centered on massive investments in infrastructure, both indoors and abroad but especially outside the country. In this logic, it will relocate several million jobs in the light industry in the coming years, because of the rising wages, the aging of its population, the decrease of populations from rural areas which consistitued the reservoirs of cheaper employees for industries. African countries could well position themselves to host the jobs they need if they succeed in creating the conditions for their establishment. Africa offers indeed important assets, the creation of an Economic Free Trade Zone “The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)”, which constitutes a market of 1.2 billion inhabitants, the third market in the world after the Chinese markets 1.4 billion inhabitants, and Indian with 1.3 billion consumers, far ahead of those in the US and Europe, the proximity of the European market and a young and poor population and thus a workforce available. However, the creation of specialized training centers, infrastructure according to international standards, dedicated Industrial Parks or Special Economic Zones and / or the development of efficient and cheaper public transport systems, which reduce congestion and costs of transportation, as well as decent and affordable housing not far away from the employment areas will be necessary. The challenge is to integrate the global value chains of the new division of labor around the world, where the labor-intensive production stages of multinational enterprises are often relocated to countries where labor force is cheap, well educated and then competitive.