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THE PRESSURES OF GROWTH: RAPID URBANIZATION IN AFRICA AND THE MIDDLE EAST

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

In Africa, urbanization is projected to continue to increase at an unprecedented pace. In 2015, Africa’s urban population was close to 40 percent. By 2050, more than 60 percent of the continent will live in urban areas. In the Middle East, the rate of urbanization also increased dramatically from the 1960s to 2000s, but has recently slowed down. Urbanization has nonetheless transformed the Middle East and promises to have a significant impact on Africa as well. Both the rapidity of urbanization and the reason for its occurrence—due primarily to demographic upward trends (i.e., decreases in infant and maternal mortality etc.) as opposed to rural-urban migration—differentiate this period of change from other periods of rural-urban migration.

Africa currently has three megacities with populations over 10 million: Lagos, Cairo, and Kinshasa. Estimates suggest that Khartoum, Dar-es-Salaam, Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Abidjan and Kano could expand into megacities by 2050. Population pressures are accompanying urbanization in Africa as governments struggle to accommodate the growth of their cities. Infrastructure and service provision are particularly lacking in many African cities. Rapid urbanization has been associated specifically with housing shortages, a lack of clean water and sanitation services, and increased crime. In the Middle East, housing shortages, youth unemployment, and large displaced and refugee populations—although less acute than in Africa—also pose a problem for the region’s cities.

To effectively address these issues, governments could benefit from external assistance from international partners in the following areas: infrastructure development, urban planning and reform of the law enforcement sector.

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