Monday, July 31, 2017

Urban Blight

Cities in sub-Saharan Africa are growing fast. Nigeria alone is projected to add 212 million urban dwellers by 2050, equivalent to the current population of Germany, France and the UK.  African cities. Urban economies across the region are markedly different from those of other cities around the world: they are more expensive to live in, more informal and less industrial. African cities are too often developing in ways that perpetuate poverty and marginalisation. 

Environmental risks range from everyday hazards such as waterborne diseases (cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery) to larger, less frequent disasters (tropical storms, flooding, fires).

 African cities are inextricably linked with poverty. It therefore seems counter-intuitive that the cost of living is higher in urban Africa than in other cities in the global South. One estimate suggests that food and drink cost 35% more in real terms in sub-Saharan African cities than in other countries, while housing is 55% more expensive. This means that urban dwellers have to spend more of their income to enjoy the same quality of life. The average urban household in sub-Saharan Africa spends 39% to 59% of its budget on food alone. The high price of basic goods and services means that people living in African cities have little money to spend on reducing risk, such as upgrading their homes, preventative health care or buying insurance.
Urbanisation has historically been closely linked to industrialisation. From Detroit to Manchester to Shenzhen, the rise of a vibrant manufacturing sector fuelled rapid population and economic growth in cities. In sub-Saharan Africa, urbanisation is taking place without industrialisationOne explanation for this unusual trend is that higher living costs mean that the labour force requires higher wages than competing cities in Asia. This makes it difficult for African cities to attract international capital.
The export of commodities such as oil and diamonds have generated high income for a small share of people in countries such as Angola, Nigeria and Libya. The wealthy beneficiaries then create urban employment through demand for non-tradeable services such as retail, transport and construction. The lack of industrialisation also means that there’s little political incentive for governments to invest in risk reducing infrastructure like sewers, drains and all weather roads.
Urbanisation without industrialisation means that jobs and livelihoods too often remain low-skilled and poorly paid. Without the opportunity to develop skills and organise collectively, workers exert little influence over working conditions. When formal jobs in industry or services are scarce, the informal economy absorbs much of the labour force. In many African cities, government policies discriminate against these workers. For example, street vendors and waste collectors are often banned from using public spaces. They may even suffer harassment from government officials. Yet they play a central role in increasing the resilience of the city. Waste pickers recycle large amount of material, reducing pollution and maintain city cleanliness. This helps prevent diseases, particularly those spread by bacteria, insects and vermin that might otherwise feed or breed on garbage. Street vendors play a critical role in providing and producing food, particularly to poor people living in urban areas.

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