Urbanization and National Development Planning

Africa’s urban transition is one of the most important mega trends which impacts the economic, social, environmental, demographic configuration of growth and transformation. So far, policy responses to the urban phenomenon have been largely limited to the local level or been of a sectoral nature (e.g. water, sanitation, housing). A strategic national level vision of the type of urbanization that can trigger structural transformation is best articulated in national development planning. Therefore, ECA supports member States in advancing a cross sectoral approach that facilitates linkages between urbanization with job creation, productivity, value addition, competitivity and innovation. While a sectoral national urban policy is an important element, it needs to be guided by the long term vision for urbanization set in the context of national development planning. In this regard, ECA is developing knowledge and specific guidelines and tools on the role of urbanization in national development planning and the attainment of national and regional targets for growth and transformation.

Urbanization and Structural Transformation

History and experience show that urbanization is closely associated with structural transformation. Yet, this link has been weak in Africa with the continent urbanizing rapidly without industrialization or agricultural modernization resulting in lost opportunities for sustained growth, poverty reduction and job creation. ECA supports member States to harness the potentials of urbanization for structural transformation with a specific focus on industrialization. Urbanization generates considerable opportunities for domestic manufacturing including through growing and changing patterns of consumption brought by cities (middle class). At the same time, functional cities are beneficial to industrial development. As such, industrialization requires better functioning and systems of cities, which in turn require better performing industrialization. Specifically, ECA works with member States on integrating spatial and urban considerations in industrial policies and industrial priorities in urban and regional planning. In this regard it focuses on developing knowledge and specific guidelines and tools on how to better coordinate the formulation and implementation of urban and industrial policies guided by national targets of growth and transformation.

Urban Productivity and Economic Growth

Africa’s cities generate enormous economic wealth. Yet, too often, the economic role and functionality of cities and national urban systems is not adequately in focus. Cities are considered in relation to housing, sanitation or siloed elements of human development. ECA works with member States on improving urban productivity and economic development through a focus on local economic development strategies linked to targets and priorities in long term national development plans. A primary objective is to enhance job creation in higher productivity sectors to respond to the growing demand for employment in African countries, and address the challenge of informality. This includes the formulation of deliberate urban strategies and plans to enhance the functionality of cities in order to support industrial and agricultural development. In addition, ECA seeks to support member States in monitoring the role and contribution of cities in national economic development with a view to identifying and addressing related opportunities and challenges.

African Programme on Urban Data and Statistics

Following unanimous approval by the Statistical Commission for Africa, ECA has established an African Programme on Urbanization Data and Statistics. The Programme aims to advance comprehensive, comparable and reliable information for evidence-based policies and strategies to promote sustainable cities and human settlements as drivers of inclusive growth and transformation. In particular, it focuses on strengthening the capacity of national statistical systems to collect, compile and analyze urban statistics through a coordinated regional approach. The work and implementation of the Programme is guided by a working group composed of selected member States and other regional and international partners. As part of the programme, an African handbook on urban statistics is being prepared based on a comprehensive review of the state of urban data and statistics in the region. Capacity-building will be also undertaken to enhance national production and harmonization of urban statistics, and enable regional comparability.

Monitoring, follow up and review of Regional and Global Urban Commitments

The effective implementation of regional and global commitments on urban development requires member States to incorporate related aspirations into national and regional planning frameworks, policies and strategies. In this regard, ECA supports and backstops regional and national efforts for the implementation, follow up and review of the New Urban Agenda and Sustainable Development Goal 11 (Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable) in Africa. Specifically, it focuses on linking the implementation of these commitments with Africa’s priority to accelerate inclusive growth and structural transformation, and related policies and strategies (Agenda 2063). ECA coordinated the regional report for the Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) and technically backstopped the African Union’s Common African Position on the conference, in coordination with relevant partners. ECA is also collaborating with the African Union’s Specialized Technical Committee (No.8) on Public Service, Local Government, Urban Development and Decentralization and its Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee of African Ministers of Housing and Urban Development as well as UN-Habitat for a harmonized regional implementation framework for urban commitments in Africa.