Inclusive African Cities: Mapping Challenges and Opportunities in Contemporary Urban Africa
This report captures findings from a conference which saw presentations of international
and local discourses on challenges and responses towards addressing the challenges resulting
from rapid urbanisation which has led to many urban dwellers feeling excluded from the
opportunities presented by the cities.
The rate of urbanisation has reached unprecedented proportions in the late 20th century
getting into the 21st century. 50 % of the world’s population will live in cities by 2008.
The rate of urbanisation has been the highest in Africa where it has been projected that
46% of Africa’s population will live in cities by 2020. Others though have argued that
the 50% mark will be reached by 2050. This rapid process has brought about a mixture
of opportunities and challenges. On the one hand cities are seen as great places of socio-
economic opportunity and it makes it easier for governments to reach a lot of people
concentrated in one area with services. There are however huge challenges related to
this; Despite been seen as places of opportunity, African cities are currently marked by
high levels of inequality, low levels of infrastructure development, slow service delivery
and declining job opportunities. Rapid urbanisation is both putting pressure on already
scarce resources and bringing diverse groups of people together, making it difficult to
manage differing interests and expectations.
Efforts to try to understand the challenges brought about by urbanisation led to the
organisation of the ‘Inclusive African Cities Conference’ which was held on 6 and 7
March 2007 at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. The
event was jointly hosted by the Development Bank of Southern Africa, the Human
Sciences Research Council, the South African Cities Network, the University of the
Witwatersrand, the City of Johannesburg and Urban Land Mark.
Over 150 delegates including city councillors, city officials, development specialists,
academics and representatives from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) attended
the conference. The conference was held with a view to deepening understanding of
how to make rapidly urbanising African cities more inclusive, and how to provide the
basis for developing locally appropriate tools for doing so.
The conference saw presentations of international and local discourses on challenges
and responses towards addressing the challenges resulting from rapid urbanisation
which has led to many urban dwellers feeling excluded from the opportunities presented
by the cities. There was also an emphasis on moving beyond dialogue to address just
how possible interventions can be implemented by provincial and local government
departments, city managers and municipalities. Many presentations were drawn from
elsewhere in Africa so as to supplement current development models that often
overlook the broader realities of cities across the continent.