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waste collection, and increasing access to energy. Indeed, the economic, social and environmental benefits of effective urbanisation cannot be underestimated. Yet, realising the promise of cities requires cashing in on the urbanisation dividend through bold policy reforms and sound planning. Well-functioning cities don’t just happen; they are created to function well. What this requires are tailored and more sustainable urbanisation strategies. These have to be designed and implemented to reflect specific contexts and diverse urban realities and patterns. Better matching formal real estate markets with housing demands by clarifying land rights is one necessary policy reform. Improving connectivity with rural areas as well as building infrastructure and

expanding services within and between cities are other strategic components. Today, however, less than a third of African countries have national urbanisation strategies. Well-functioning cities also need capable, transparent governance. Yet, local government jobs pay poorly and are not considered viable career options to attract Africa’s young talent. And sustainable urbanisation needs to tap into public and private sources of finance in innovative ways. Urban investment needs in sub-Saharan Africa alone are estimated between $12.5 billion and $35 billion per year depending on urban extension and population densities. New and ambitious strategies for investing in sustainable urbanisation will top the global agenda as the international

Urban pollution: Clearing the air Clara Young, OECD Observer

community gathers in Quito, Ecuador for the Habitat III Conference in October 2016. As the continent refines its Common African Position on urban development, reflecting Agenda 2063 and Sustainable Development Goal 11 on cities, Africans have much to contribute to this discussion. By understanding the challenges and optimising the opportunities of urbanisation, Africa’s cities are not only a model of lessons and best practices but also a blueprint for charting a future of inclusion, productivity and prosperity for the benefit of all Africans. For more on Habitat III–United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, 17-20 October 2016–see Visit and development See

into the lungs, they do lethal damage: lung cancer, stroke, heart disease, and chronic and acute asthma.

©Peter Treanor/Alamy Stock Photo

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Urban Ambient Air Pollution Database released in May 2016, Onitsha is the city with the highest PM10 count in the world. It has 30 times more than the WHO recommended levels of PM10. It is just one of four Nigerian cities in the WHO’s top 20 airpolluters, a list that includes Kaduna, Aba and Umuahia.

Air pollution in African cities is a major health and environmental challenge that must become a focus of urban policies. 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 expell smoke. Burning rubbish dumps outside the city’s many sprawling


markets thicken the air even further. Add to that diesel generators, and open coal, oil and wood fires, and this southeastern port town in Nigeria becomes handily the world’s biggest producer of small particulate matter (PM10). When these miniscule pollutants are inhaled deep down

Nigeria may be a particularly tough case, though the African continent as a whole needs to grapple with the startling increase in premature deaths from air pollution. According to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013, (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation IHME, 2015) nearly 250,000 people died in Africa in 2013 of diseases attributable to ambient PM pollution; that is, air pollution from industry, power generation and road transport. Household air pollution, mainly from inefficient fuel stoves for indoor cooking, were contributing factors to diseases that resulted in the premature deaths of over 450,000 people that year. Indoor and outdoor air pollution is not the only environmental risk

OECD Observer No 307 Q3 2016