Background: Africa’s growing cities
By 2050, 2.5 billion more people will live in cities and almost 90 percent of that growth will be in either Africa or Asia. Three African cities have already grown beyond a population of 10 million and are considered megacities. More African cities, like Johannesburg and Nairobi, will soon become megacities. However, much of the urbanisation of Africa will be occurring in medium-size cities.
This rapid urbanisation provides great opportunities for African cities and their citizens, but also serious long-term problems if not managed well. Whilst much of the focus of current research and work is on the emergence of mega-cities, there is a growing epidemic of chronically under-resourced and ill-planned expansion of the rest of Africa’s cities that would see significant impact from equitable partnerships in innovation.
One of the most obvious problems is housing; more than 60 percent of the continent’s urban population live in informal settlements. In addition, African cities are also tackling the enormous challenges of population growth, economic inequality, the effects of climate change, traffic congestion and pollution.
As in many cities in the global north, city-led innovation in urban infrastructure development and service delivery is on the rise in African cities. While often cities in Europe are struggling to maintain or regenerate outdated infrastructure, many African cities are creating new districts and neighbourhoods from the ground up, while also fostering new and rapidly growing innovation ecosystems. Africa faces many urban challenges, yet in many of its cities the business and investment climate, as well as prospects for economic growth, are rapidly improving.