Preparing for Africa’s urban future

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.

But as cities like Johannesburg and Nairobi will soon become megacities, much of the urbanisation of Africa will be occurring in medium-size cities. Our African Cities Innovation Analysis seeks to provide UK innovation businesses and Innovate UK with insights into the innovation landscape in African cities. It provides an overview of several East African and South African cities in particular and recommendations for engagement in the African Innovation marketplace.

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 While often cities in Europe are struggling to maintain or regenerate outdated infrastructure, many African cities are creating new districts and neighbourhoods from the ground up, while also fostering new and rapidly growing innovation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.

About this report

To understand the role and potential impact for UK Business, Innovate UK commissioned this scoping exercise to identify if and how African cities offer an opportunity for UK innovation companies; and to garner early insights on the most promising routes to market.

The exercise primarily focuses on the geo-political areas of Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa, providing quantitative and qualitative insights, as well as an overview of pan-African cities and city networks.

From initial insights taken from a set of select cities in Africa, the report makes recommendations to UK Innovation businesses, Innovate UK and those in the Innovate family as to what geographic areas might provide the best point of entry into the African city market.

The report also offers some thoughts on what shape early engagement might take in the form of partnerships and capable funders and networks across the continent.

African cities innovation analysis
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Next Steps

Following the publication of the African Cities Innovation Analysis Report we are pleased to announce the launch of our Urban links Africa project. We will be offering high-growth SMEs an opportunity to deploy innovative technologies to help solve key, high priority challenges in cities within Kenya and South Africa and to connect with senior stakeholders in these African cities. Click here to find out more.