The urbanization of Africa is a powerful lever to raise the standard of living of the population

Even if the Africa of the villages is far from gone, the continent is gradually becoming predominantly urban. Since 1990, the number of cities in Africa has more than doubled, from 3 300 to 7 600. Accelerated urbanization, which is having a profound impact on the continent’s economic performance and the living standards of the population.

In Africa, it is not the rural exodus that feeds the cities, but the villages, which become cities simply through the growth of their population. And cities will become metropolises over time.

This unique urbanization is often chaotic with its share of congestion, pollution, water or power outages. Nevertheless, this urbanization is a strong economic lever and is accompanied by a significant increase in living standards, according to the report entitled Club du Sahel (OECD) published on April 26, 2022 Dynamics of urbanization in Africa : the economic influence of African cities” which brings a new perspective on African urban economies.

Despite an additional 500 million inhabitants in thirty years, African cities offer better education and better jobs. These tend to require higher qualifications and are better paid than in rural areas.

Fertility rates in big cities are 37% lower than in rural areas. Fewer children per woman often means better education for children. On average, young people in big cities receive almost five years more education than in rural areas.

In big cities, 80% of households are connected to the electricity grid, compared to only 20% in rural areas. About 7% of rural people have access to running water, compared to 25% of small town residents and 33% of metropolitan ones.

“Africa’s rapid urbanization is a unique opportunity. Governments should focus their efforts on making the most of it.”

Club du Sahel (OECD) and African Development Bank (AfDB)

In the report

The benefits of urbanization are also affecting rural areas. More and more rural households live close to a city and can thus sell their production there, but also benefit from its services and infrastructure.

However, more effort is needed to transform cities into engines of sustainable economic growth. “Compared to cities in other parts of the world, many African cities are poorly planned, lack infrastructure and have inadequate public services,” however, qualify this report.

“Spontaneous urbanization will not make poverty go away. There are and will be many poor people in African cities, even if they are less poor on average than the rural population. On the other hand, well thought-out and managed urbanization is a powerful lever against poverty.”, says Laurent Bossard, director of the Sahel and West Africa Club (OECD). A key consideration as Africa’s urban population is expected to double over the next 25 years.

Leave a Comment