City growth in Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to increase by 267 percent from 2007 to 2050. Globally, urban growth is expected to increase by 94 percent within the same period in a trend that come with enormous challenges.
In the face of this consulting group KPMG said rapid urbanisation and growing populations will create significant challenges for emerging local governments throughout the world.
Leader of the South African Centre of Excellence for Cities, Kobus Fourie, cited UN estimates that suggest that between 2007 and 2025, approximately 1.2 million people per month would move to Sub-Saharan African cities. It is expected that by 2025, an additional 284 million new people would have moved into cities in Africa. Mick Allworth, Chairperson of the global Centre of Excellence for Cities, said that research conducted into cities revealed that many city representatives were concerned at the short term thinking around decisions, which were often piecemeal rather than fully integrated and holistic. Instances identified included transport networks, sustainability and environmental enhancements, social housing and utility infrastructure.
Productivity is becoming a significant drain on the local economies, stated Mr. Allworth “The significant increase of people moving into cities leads to tremendous traffic congestions. In the US, this increasing congestion has led $50bn dollars annual loss in productivity due to people sitting in traffic jams”.
David O’Brien, leader of KPMG’s Global Centre of Excellence noted that infrastructure will become an even stronger driver for local economies. “City decision makers have to accept the principle that infrastructure should lead development and all infrastructure planning must look at the city 50 years beyond where we are today. All infrastructure must be integrated into the long range plans of the city in order to be strategic and visionary in the planning of the city”.
While there continues to be an emerging debate as to the advantages and disadvantages of the intensification of cities versus suburbanisation, massive intensification of many of the world’s most dense urban areas has caused significant social-economic issues “Delhi and Mumbai have massive population growth, despite the fact that the infrastructure can no longer sustain these cities,” said O’ Brien. “Those cities have reached the point where they are almost impossible to live in as basic services such as water, sanitation and housing are stretched beyond healthy human expectations. The government of India has chosen to strategically plan the development of a number of satellite cities between Delhi and Mumbai that will be properly planned in order to alleviate the continuous migration to Delhi and Mumbai.
“Fortunately, governments are beginning to understand this evolving tragedy and have now set their minds to a strategic process of city planning with infrastructure as the leading driver,” said O’Brien.
Although institutional and legal arrangements differ from country-to-country and city-to-city, the pressure on Cities and countries around the environment and related issues around climate change and sustainability are beginning to emerge as “catalytic points of change and an overall point of universal convergence,” said Allworth.
Although most cities have the instruments and tools to make changes, cautioned O’Brien, “The one thing that is critically important is the political will to address what may be unpopular issues in the short-term for the benefit of the long-term. The need for strong leadership is becoming the most significant driver in the change process of urbanization. It is truly the time for the great urban leaders of the world to set the agenda for the future and use all of their political capital to create a world of cities that can be lived in for decades to come”
Following the media conference, Stats SA released the Census 2011 results on 30 October. Fourie says “that the data shows that the provinces of Gauteng and the Western Cape have had population growths of 33.7% and 28.7% respectively and that the overall population has grown by 15.5% to 51.8 million people. The data also shows that the Gauteng province has had a net inflow of more than one million from the other provinces and illustrates the predicted urbanization trend.”
“This growing urbanization not only places pressure on existing social infrastructure, but also increase the burden on the current infrastructure, some of which are in need for repair, to provide, amongst others, water, power, and transport to the citizens”, Fourie said.