Report highlights myth of Africa's urbanization

Mar 12, 2012
Report highlights myth of Africa's urbanization

The widely-held belief that Africa is urbanising faster than anywhere else in the world is a myth, according to research from the Department of Geography.

In a study Dr. Deborah Potts, a Reader in at King’s, says that although the population levels of numerous areas in Africa are growing rapidly, this is mainly in line with rates of urban natural increase (births exceeding deaths) rather than because of significant net in-migration.

Dr. Potts analysed data from 18 countries across the continent which have had recent censuses and found only four were experiencing rapid population growth in cites. Levels of urbanization – the share of the population living in towns - had stagnated or increased only very slowly in a further 10 and had declined in four.

In an article titled "Whatever Happened to Africa’s Rapid Urbanization?," published as part of the Counterpoint series by the Africa Research Institute, Dr. Potts says that African governments, policymakers and donors need to respond to the fact that urbanisation is not happening as rapidly as thought and identify wha this fact can tell them about economic development and employment in the continent.

Although most African countries experienced rapid urbanization in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, census records since this time have been erratic, and reliable, regular data were rare up until recently.

When census surveys took place in the late 1990s and early 2000s, they demonstrated that the shift of the population from rural to urban centres had slowed in several large sub-Saharan African countries.

This challenged data from UN-Habitat and the World Bank, which are the most frequently cited sources of urban statistics for . Dr. Potts says that both organizations often failed to account for a decline in the rate of urbanisation and assumed it was still very rapid.

The evidence shows that in many countries there is a very small increase in the rate at which urbanisation levels are increasing of around one per cent a decade. 

Dr. Potts said: "It is time for policy makers to realize these dynamics and to differentiate between countries which really are urbanising rapidly and those where it has slowed.

"The presumption of rapid urban growth can distract from the realities of how poorly African cities have fared under the pressures of globalised economies."

The full paper is available from the Africa Research Institute.

Explore further: Power can corrupt even the honest

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Ecological impact of African cities

Dec 02, 2008

African cities are growing faster than anywhere else in the world. This is having a major impact, but few ecologists are studying the urban environment and effect of cities on rural areas. One of the most important ecological ...

Obesity epidemic taking root in Africa

Dec 15, 2009

The urban poor in sub-Saharan Africa are the latest victims of the obesity epidemic. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Public Health claim that overweight and obesity are on the increase among this group. ...

Food insecurity linked with HIV/AIDS in Africa

Mar 19, 2008

Determining how the HIV/AIDS epidemic increases food insecurity in African cities – and what can be done to reduce the chances of this happening –is the focus of a new, international Queen’s-led project.

Sub-Saharan Africa: the population emergency

Jan 08, 2008

Sub-Saharan Africa has been experiencing phenomenal population growth since the beginning of the XXth Century, following several centuries of population stagnation attributable to the slave trade and colonization. The region’s ...

Recommended for you

Power can corrupt even the honest

10 hours ago

When appointing a new leader, selectors base their choice on several factors and typically look for leaders with desirable characteristics such as honesty and trustworthiness. However once leaders are in power, can we trust ...

Learning at 10 degrees north

11 hours ago

Secluded beaches, calypso music and the entertaining carnival are often what come to mind when thinking of the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. But Dal Earth Sciences students might first consider Trinidad's ...

How to find the knowns and unknowns in any research

13 hours ago

Have you ever felt overloaded by information? Ever wondered how to make sense of claims and counter-claims about a topic? With so much information out there on many different issues, how is a person new to ...

Minorities energize US consumer market, according to report

13 hours ago

The buying power of minority groups in the U.S. has reached new heights and continues to outpace cumulative inflation, according to the latest Multicultural Economy Report from the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the ...

User comments : 0