UN warns of urbanisation in Africa

By Time of article published Jun 17, 2005

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By Andrew Cawthorne

Nairobi - Sub-Saharan Africa's traditionally rural-based society is fast disappearing, with more than half its roughly 700-million people seen living in urban areas by 2030, the United Nations said on Friday.

The head of the United Nations housing project Habitat said Africa's "chaotic urbanisation" was - together with the HIV/Aids pandemic - the biggest threat to the world's poorest continent.

"The pace of urbanisation in the world has caught us all by surprise," Anna Tibaijuka said in Nairobi, citing that city's vast, 800 000-strong Kibera slum as a prime example.

"By 2030, 51 percent of Africans will be living in cities and towns. Africa will stop being a rural continent."

Unchecked flows of rural poor seeking better lives has put an unbearable strain on Africa's capitals, she said.

Some 70 percent of Nairobi's roughly three million inhabitants, for example, live in shanty-towns like Kibera.

"Urban poverty was not an easy issue to sell but people are catching on to its importance," she added at a news conference.

The solution lies not in forcibly stopping people from coming to cities but in making rural areas and smaller towns more attractive to live in with better services and commercial opportunities, she said.

The issue of Africa's urban poor has hit headlines in recent weeks with Zimbabwe's crackdown on shantytowns and informal traders leaving an estimated 200 000 people homeless.

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