Development in African cities today is not in the megacities of Kinshasa, Lagos, and Cairo, but in intermediate cities that are directly linked with their surrounding environment.
In the coming decades, migration toward African and Asian cities will account for 90 percent of population movements. Accordingly, African cities are now being forced to anticipate the shocks, constraints, and risks created by urbanization—including sharp investment deficits, scarce resources, and insufficient public service provision—resulting largely from the inadequacy of current urban planning policies.
Confronted by strong demographic pressures, increasing pollution, poor urban infrastructure, and inadequate basic social services, African cities must now rethink their urban development models in order to engage in more dynamic transitions and create new paths toward a better future. By focusing on promoting economic growth and addressing vulnerabilities—through firm commitments from central to municipal governments, strong leadership from local officials, and innovative approaches to mobilizing the necessary resources for local development— these transitions, driven by technological innovation and green technologies, will allow the creation of attractive, competitive, viable, and sustainable cities. Faced with insufficient domestic resources, the success of urban transitions will be largely determined by the ability of our cities to seek other sources of financing. In the Senegalese capital of Dakar, for example, the city is working toward establishing the region’s first municipal bond to raise funding for urban infrastructure projects, while also partnering with international donors for technical and financial assistance. If innovation constitutes a response to the challenges of an increasingly urban world, financial markets— including banking systems, stock markets, and institutional donors—will be crucial components upon which big African metropolises depend in order to mobilize resources. The stakes are considerable for the African continent, as it is in our cities that the struggle for Africa’s resurgence will be won or lost.