The 2018 Sustainable African Cities conference is taking place in Accra. PHOTO: Lindiz van Zilla/ANA

ACCRA - Urbanisation in developing countries, particularly in Africa and Asia, is one of the defining trends of the 21st century, with profound economic, social and environmental effects. 

"While these effects may be either positive or negative, depending on how urban services are managed, no country has ever experienced significant
development progress without undergoing a major population shift towards cities," Christoph Retzlaff, the German Ambassador to Ghana, said on Wednesday on the opening day of the 2018 Sustainable African Cities conference taking place in Accra, Ghana.

According to Retzlaff, Sub-Saharan Africa is currently the region where the urban population is smallest in relative terms (32.8%), but which has the highest proportion of slum-dwellers (65%).

Most Sub-Saharan African cities are characterised by inadequate basic infrastructure, particularly in low-income areas. The African countries where rapid urban population growth is expected in the future include states such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Egypt.

"No part of the planet is urbanising faster than Africa. It took Europe 110 years to move from the situation in 1800, in which 15% of the population was living in towns and cities, to the situation in 1910, when 40% of the population lived in urban areas. 

"Africa has achieved the same transformation in just 60 years – almost half this period," he said. "Currently, the continent has seven mega-cities, with populations of over 10 million: Cairo, Kinshasa, Lago, Johannesburg-Pretoria, Khartoum and Nairobi. 

"But mega-cities are not the whole story: the fastest growth in Africa’s urban revolution is occurring in smaller and medium-sized cities that have fewer resources and receive less political attention," he continued. "Although cities with between 500,000 and one million residents are among the
fastest growing agglomerations in Africa, they tend to receive less attention than mega-cities."

African News Agency (ANA)