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Special to the 16th International Economic Forum on Africa: African cities for Africa’s development OECD Conference Centre, Paris, 29 September 2016

i-Sheet browse on paper, read online


African cities at the forefront of progress Africa is urbanising at a historically rapid pace coupled with an unprecedented demographic boom. By 2050, about 56% of Africans are expected to live in cities. This poses major policy challenges, but make no mistake: Africa’s cities and towns are engines of progress that, if harnessed correctly, can fuel the entire continent’s sustainable development. This OECD Observer i-Sheet casts a spotlight on the key issues. Browse the headlines on paper, and read the full articles online using the short URLs or scan the QR code.




©Robert Harding/Alamy


Where cities can take Africa

A 21st century vision for urbanisation

Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), Laurent Bossard, Director of the OECD Sahel and West Africa Club, and Mario Pezzini, Director, the OECD Development Centre, and Acting Director, OECD Development Co-operation Directorate

Joan Clos, Executive Director, UN-Habitat

Cities like Tangier in the north of Morocco, which has transformed in 15 years into a vibrant metropolitan area of 1.5 million inhabitants, show how Africa’s cities and towns can fuel the entire continent’s sustainable development.

If urbanisation is one of the most important global trends of the 21st century, with some 70% of the world’s population forecasted to live in cities by 2050, then urbanisation in Africa–and the ways in which that growth occurs–marks one of the most significant opportunities for achieving global sustainable development.

Full article

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African cities can be actors of structural transformation

Urban growth’s natural increase

Arthur Minsat, Economist, OECD Development Centre

Unlike in many other regions of the world, people quitting the countryside to settle in cities will not be the main driver of Africa’s urban growth. City and regional policies must go hand in hand as a result.

African nations are exploring how best to harness the potential of cities as agents of change to achieve progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.

Rory Clarke

Urban growth in Africa’s cities

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Down to business with the informal sector

Urban growth rates for selected countries, 1960-2010 Annual urban growth (%)


David Menascé

The last 15 years have seen the emergence and proliferation of new business models that aim to combine long-term economic viability with beneficial social impacts, via the likes of inclusive businesses, social entrepreneurship, and so on, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Innovative business models are creating new dynamics between formal companies and informal micro-entrepreneurs.

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Migration residual

Urban natural increase

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Africapolis: Measuring urbanisation dynamics in West Africa Sahel and West Africa Club

Africa is the least urbanised continent in the world but an urban transition is very much underway. This is particularly visible in West Africa where the number of urban agglomerations increased from 152 in 1950 to almost 2,000 in 2010.

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© Joe Penney / Reuters

©Peter Treanor/Alamy Stock Photo


Urban pollution: Clearing the air

Africa’s urbanisation and structural transformation

Clara Young

It’s hard to breathe in Onitsha, a major river port in Nigeria. The air is dark with car fumes. Old freighters on the River Niger expel smoke. Burning rubbish dumps outside the city’s many sprawling markets thicken the air even further.

Patrick Love

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Integrating the local and global urban agendas

An e-world apart

We don’t know the name, or the place and exact date of birth, of the baby who changed world history. My guess is that she was born somewhere in Africa in 2007.

Lyndon Thompson

In October, world leaders will gather in Quito for the Habitat III summit to launch the New Urban Agenda. This is on top of the start this year of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

©Tom Gilks / Alamy

Developing the Internet in poor countries can be a difficult business.

David Simon, Director, Mistra Urban Futures, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden

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Africa’s blue economy

How China’s rebalancing affects Africa’s development finance … and more

Carlos Lopes, UN Under-Secretary-General & Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa

Helmut Reisen, Shifting Wealth Consulting and former Head of Research, OECD Development Centre

2015 has been a challenging year for Africa. Average growth of African economies weakened in 2015 to 3.6%, down from an average annual 5% enjoyed since 2000.

The world’s oceans, seas and rivers are a major source of wealth, creating trillions of dollars’ worth in goods and services as well as employing billions of people. […] Yet Africa’s blue potential remains untapped.

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Africa’s choice: Business-as-usual or a green agenda?

Roman Rollnick, former Chief Editor, Advocacy, Outreach and Communications, UN-Habitat

Belynda Petrie, CEO and Co-Founder, OneWorld Sustainable Investments

The Paris Agreement on climate change signals the end of business as usual for energy industries. For the first time in history more than 150 developed and developing countries have promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But how binding are these agreements? And do they provide impetus for local action in Africa?

Though mobile technology is making waves in Africa, airwaves still count.

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Korean-African trade techs up

Korea’s trade flows with Africa, 1996-2014 US$ billion

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Korea, Imports from Africa




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Korean trade with Africa has more than quadrupled since the late 1990s. With imports and exports totalling US$26.5 in 2014, Korea is one of the fastest emerging trade partners of the continent over the last decade. Three-quarters of Korea’s exports are composed of electronic equipment and appliances, phones and transport equipment, compared with less than half in the case of China, for instance.

Source: OECD Development Centre (calculations based on Comtrade data)


Relive the must-go global meeting of the year. - #OECDwk

OECD Observer i-Sheet: African cities for development  

Special to the 16th International Economic Forum on Africa: African cities for Africa's development, OECD Conference Centre, Paris, 29 Septe...

OECD Observer i-Sheet: African cities for development  

Special to the 16th International Economic Forum on Africa: African cities for Africa's development, OECD Conference Centre, Paris, 29 Septe...