A two-day conference on urbanisation in Africa opened in Accra yesterday, with a call on stakeholders to bring their expertise to bear on the develop-ment of urban areas.
Opening it, the Deputy Minister of Finance, Mrs. Mona Quartey, said urbanisation was not merely a modern phenomenon, but a rapid and historical transformation of human social roots on a global scale.
She said the African society was rapidly changing from rural to urban, with cities and towns expanding not only in terms of population, but also spatial.
“The cities are taking more space and encroaching on rural agricultural productive land with its consequent threat to food security among others,” she said.
Referring to the United Nations, the Deputy Minister said it was predicted that by 2050, about 64 per cent of the developing world and 86 per cent of the developed world would be urbanised, saying, it was equivalent to approximately three billion people, much of which will occur in Africa and Asia.
She said urbanisation had a positive and negative attribute, saying “while it brings about creation of vibrant centres of education, culture, commerce and industry as well as technological innovation, it also leads to development of slums, increase in criminal activities, instability and spread of diseases.”
Mrs. Quartey also mentioned increased generation of solid waste which contributes to land conversion for landfills, threat to coastal ecosystems and undermining of economic activities such as fishing and tourism, a problem that many countries on the continent were grappling with including Ghana.
In a statement read on his behalf, the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Alhaji Collins Dauda, said more than half of Ghana’s population live in urban areas with the urban population growing at a rate faster than that of the rural areas during the last decade.
In 2012, he said, Ghana launched its national urban policy to address some of the challenges of urbanisation, noting that it contributed to socio-economic transformation of the country.
He mentioned for example, how urban transport infrastructure could connect people to jobs, increase productivity and contribute to economic growth.
The Senior Operations Officer at the World Bank, Ghana Office, Beatrix Allah-Mensah said a well-designed urban policy and strategic investment of urbanisation could produce a significant difference in making African cities efficient, inclusive and environmentally sustainable.
She said, urban centres were dynamic systems and policy choices made early in the urbanisa-tion process could have long term effects both positive and negative for many generations to come.
Madam Allah-Mensah said, strong regulatory and policy commitments were needed to lay the foundation for long term development of cities, and urged countries to build strong institutional and financial systems at all levels in order to implement city development plans and deliver services efficiently.
The conference which was on the theme, “Urbanisation in Africa: trends, promises and challenges”, was attended by the World Bank Group including researchers, academicians, development planners, and policy-makers among others.
By Francis Asamoah Tuffour & Jennifer Apprey