African cities need better, smarter infrastructure

To help achieve the sustainable urbanisation goals of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, African urban leaders will have to develop infrastructure that supports integrated, people-focused cities.

Rapid population growth and urbanisation will see nearly 350 million new city-dwellers in Africa by 2030 and a billion more by 2063, writes global consultancy firm WSP. To meet the expected demand of such urbanisation, the African Union developed Agenda 2063 – a long-term vision and set of seven aspirations for sustainable urbanisation.

Yet if Africa is to achieve these aspirations, it needs to put “more focus on infrastructure development that will support sustainable cities that are totally integrated – and cities that are ‘people’ focused,” says Alison Groves of WSP Africa. “This will mean reviewing all current infrastructure plans and projects to understand what is the socioeconomic and environmental impact of these.” If necessary, current infrastructure projects should be readjusted to ensure that they truly benefit people, communities, trade and industry.

Africa will also have to overcome the challenge of having cities and urban centres that are spread out and fragmented. For instance, focus needs to be placed on infrastructure projects that interlink these urban centres and make it easier for people to move within and between them. This would encourage greater participation in the mainstream economy.

“Public transport infrastructure therefore still has a crucial role to play in the future of African cities,” adds her colleague Herbert Phahlane. But to make it more effective, it will have to be integrated into larger, regional and cross-regional transport networks.

Image credit: Hendri Lombard / World Bank via Flickr

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