- Urbanization in Africa
:"This article is supposed to cover urbanization in Africa, but since it is based on a paper about the relationship between urbanization and politics in
Sub-Saharan Africaits main focus lies there. Please update as needed and remove this notice when you find the article sufficiently balanced"
Urban development in statistics
It is estimated that in 1900 about 95% of Africa's inhabitants south of Sahara lived from the primary occupations of farming, hunting & gathering, cattle nomadism, and fishing (Aase, 2003:1) meaning that less than 5% were urban. In 1950 (the start of the independence period) 14.7% of Africa's inhabitants were urban, in 2000 had it risen to 37.2% and it is expected to rise to 45.3% in 2015, in effect 3.76% ? 3.35% per year (UN, 2002). The
Nigerian city of Lagosthat in 1963 had 665 000 inhabitants (Rakodi, 1997) and 8.7 million in 2000 is expected to become the worlds 11th biggest city by 2015 with 16 million inhabitants (UN, 2002). The urbanization of most of Africa is moving fast forward, especially south of the Sahara.
The earliest known cities of Africa emerged around the
Nile Valley. The most famous of these is of course Alexandriain Egypt. The history of the old Egyptian empirehas been thoroughly studied and their technology, history and political system is widely known and resherd as likable common sense
But Africa south of the Sahara also had many cities. One of the first and notable was
Meroe(present Sudan), capitalof the Kushkingdom. It prospered between the 14th and the 4th century BC. Meroe and other Kushite cities advanced in stone and iron technology and also building construction and irrigation agriculture. Axum, capital of the Ethiopian kingdom lasted from the first century AD until about the 10th century AD. It had an extensive trade network with the roman Mediterranean, south Arabiaand India, trading ivory, precious metals, clothing and spices. Axumian stone artwork ( monoliths has been preserved, and bear proof of their advances in quarrying, stone carving, terracing, building construction and irrigation.
Between AD 700 to 1600, cities in the West African
savannaemerged from the trans-Saharan trade. Some of the more prominent were Kumbi Saleh, Timbuktu, Djennéand Gao. Arabic scholars like Ibn Khaldunhave been a very important source of historical accounts from this area and period. Gold mining, irontechnology, pottery making and textileproduction were the important technologies. In the commercial and capital center of Ghana(not present Ghana) Kumbi Saleh an elaborate economic system including taxation was developed.
In the West African forest region, cities developed among the Yoruba,
Hausa peopleas well as in the Ashantiand Beninkingdom. As well as being commercial and political centers they worked as spiritual centers.
In the central African equatorial region cities could be found in what is today Congo,
DR Congo, Angola, Zambia, Rwandaand Burundi.
Musumbacapital of the Lunda kingdom
Mbanza-Kongocapital of the Kongo Empire
Ryamuraricapital of the Ndorwakingdom ( Rwanda
Kigubacapital of the Gandakingdom
Coastal East Africa
In this region a
Swahili Islamic culture emerged.Important cities:
*Kilwa (present Tanzania)Technological developments included coin minting, copper works, building craftsmanship, boat building, cotton textile. External trade was very active and important with
Great Zimbabweis one of the more famous pre-colonial cities of Africa. Its Great Enclosure is considered the largest single prehistoric structure in Africa.
List of African territories and states by date of colonization
List of pre-colonial African cities
Berlin conferenceof 1884/85 as a foundation, Africa was apportioned among the European powers almost as if it were a cake. In 1914 only Ethiopiaand Liberiawere left as independent states, the remainder of the continent was under British, French, Portuguese, German, Belgian, Italian or Spanish control. It was the interest of these powers that governed the borders. The continent had almost no urban population and the colonial powers had not started to invest much in its «pieces» (Hernæs, 2003a). A good example is Northern Nigeriathat in 1900 had a budget of £100,000, a military force of 2000 Hausa-soldiers and 120 British officers. With this they were to govern an enormous area with a population of about 10 million people.
The economic and administrative politics had the greatest effect on urbanization. The important export products
cash crops (including cotton, maize, tobacco, sugar, coffee, tea, palm oil, and groundnuts) and minerals had to be transported to the harbour towns for export. For this railway transportwas needed, and to run the colony administration and personnel was needed. The central administration was often placed in harbour town, but there was not developed any network of small and middle-sized cities (Aase, 2003:3).
New cities were placed in an existing settlement or at a completely new site. Completely new cities were especially developed in the
copper zoneto house the mine workers. Examples include Johannesburgand Kimberley in South Africa, Ndolaand Kitwein Zambiaand Lubumbashiin DR Congo.
Some cities were used and some were ignored. Close to the main lines of transportation the cities grew, while towns that were ignored by transportation and administration in effect disappeared, as for example
It was in the cities of transportation and administration that contact with government and commerce was possible. As a consequence it was invested in these cities leading to the need of workforce. The commercial politics of
raw inputsexporting to finance the colony and develop Africa governed the way what cities that should grow.
At the same time the colonial powers became aware of the problems that urbanization brought with it. The
rural-urban migration pulled labour away from the countryside where the important export products were made. The Africans usually lived in small spaces and under poor sanitary conditions. They were therefore prone to illnesses like malaria. The colonial governments' response was not to improve the Africans conditions, but rather to separate Europeans, Asians and Africans from each other and establish influx controllaws. In South Africa this resulted in the official policy of apartheidfrom 1950. This was also a policy that was especially common in settlercities like Harare, Lusakaand Nairobi.
With the economic depression in the 1930s, prices of African export products dropped. This in turn led to an economic downturn and unemployment. The mining workforce before the depression had been mostly temporary or seasonal, often also forced labour. The workers therefore lived in mining cities away from home and their families in the countryside.
From the 1920s in
Belgian Congoand from the 1940s in South Africa and South and North Rhodesiathe mining companies started to prefer more permanent workers. The authorities changed their policies to facilitate the change, and after a while also moved the working men's families into the cities. The new policies tried to strengthen the authorities' control over land and city growth, and make life easier for the European administration.
The effect of the apartheid and similar policies can be illustrated by comparing urban growth rate in Southern Africa, with that of the rest of Africa in the 1950s. This also illustrates that the policy was not working or not effective in the other colonies: The urban growth rate of Southern Africa was about 3.3%, compared to about 4.6% for the whole of Africa.
As the economy grew, the cities also grew. The colonial authorities started to strengthen the development policies that had suffered because of the 1930s depression. Social services, especially primary schools, but also secondary schools, and in the end of the colonial period also a few universities were built. Important infrastructure such as harbours, electricity grid and roads was further developed. All this caused growing administration, growing exports and growing cities, that grew even more in the post colonial period.
Most of today's African countries gained their formal independence in the 1960s. The new countries seemed to have a great faith in
planned economyregardless of how they gained their independence. The government should actively develop the country, not only by building infrastructure and developing social services; but also by developing industry and employment. Many parastatal companies are today left as 'white elephants' and demonstrate the great investments that were made in the cities at the beginning of the post-colonial period (Rakodi, 1997).
For many reasons it was thought that centralisation equalled a strong (powerful) state (government). The reasons could be
*the wish to induce a feeling of nationhood, which also led to the establishment of brand new capitals (to be mentioned later);
*a lack of qualified government officers; someone had to do the work that the colonial officers had done, but in some places these people simply did not exist;
*the fear that local authorities would turn against central authorities. (Rakodi, 1997).
Centralization meant that companies had even more reason to establish themselves in the already large capitals because this was closest to power. In effect this led to a huge concentration of investment in urban areas. For example in Nigeria where 80% of investments not related to agriculture was spent in urban areas (Rakodi, 1997).
New cities were also established in the post-colonial period, but not for the same reasons as in the colonial period. The seaport Tema in
Ghanawas built awaiting great industrial growth. Later, new capitals were built, inspired by the planned city of Brasíliain Brazil. This happened in Malawi( Lilongwe), Côte d'Ivoire( Yamoussoukro) and Nigeria ( Abuja) (Stock, 1995). The new capitals were meant to give the nation a 'fresh start', they were supposed to be the beginning of a new golden future promised by the liberation politicians.
As none of the new capitals have grown to more than about half a million inhabitants, they have probably not had much influence on the growth of the already established cities. Tema could be said to be a success as it is the most important port today, and together with
Accrarepresent the biggest metropolitan area in Ghana (The World Bank Group, 2001; UN, 2003b).
At the same time as influx-control regulations were intensified in South Africa, this kind of regulation was weakened in the newly liberated countries. This led to more
rural-urban migration in the newly liberated countries (Rakodi, 1997), and a stable decline in urbanization growth from 1950 to 1990 in South Africa.From figure 1 one can see that after the end of apartheid in 1990, the urbanization rate grow from 2.29% to 3.41%, while it continues to sink in the rest of Africa. The abandonment of the influx-control regulations in 1986 is a part of this picture. The city of Bloemfonteingrew 51% between 1988 and 1996. (The Ministry of the Flemish Government, 2001).
Country / Region
"Figure 1: Average yearly urbanization growth as %". From: "World Urbanization Prospects: The 2001 Revision, FN 2002". Eastern Africa is included because it is the region with the most urbanization growth after 1950. All numbers are estimated, and especially the ones for 2000–2005 are therefore uncertain
Influx control regulation was active in South Africa until 1986/90, while in the rest of Africa they were more or less abandoned or without effect. However, even the remnants of these regulations could have an effect on how the cities grew, since they made it difficult to get hold of legally owned land. This again led to the illegitimate occupation of land.
One reason for people wanting to move from rual to urban areas is that they think living will be better there. A comparison between HDI rank and urbanization level in Africa could show that there might be some sense in this belief. The five African countries that in 2001 ranked highest on the
UN Human Development Indexwas also some of the most urbanised, see figure 2.
% urban population
"Figure 2: Numbers from UNDP, 2003: "Human Development Index" and the UN "WorldUrbanization Prospects, the 2001 Revision“. The HDI value is calculated from each countries education level, life expectancy at birth and GDP per capita (PPP US$). The countries are ranked by HDI value."
In some countries rural inhabitants have been given even more reasons to migrate to the city by lower food prices in the cities, often because of pressure from
trade unions. This in turn has led to lowered income in rural areas and therefore higher migration to urban areas. (Rakodi, 1997; Aase, 2003).
Finally it should be mentioned that
warand economic misconduct have led to the dilution of rural resources and periodically very high rural-urban migration. At the end of the 1980s, there were only 18 African countries that had not experienced a military coup against their government (Rakodi, 1997).
The urbanization rate in Africa is slowing, but so is the population growth rate, much because of
HIV/AIDS (UN, 2003a). The big cities of Africa will probably continue to grow, but the future is as always uncertain. In 1994 it was expected that Lagoswould become the world's third biggest city with 24.4 million inhabitants by 2015 (Todaro, 1997), but in 2001 this was adjusted to the world's eleventh biggest city with 'only' 16 million inhabitants (UN, 2002). This shows how uncertain the numbers are, and how unpredictable the African population development is.
It is evident that like in the rest the world the African urbanization process has mainly been influenced by economy. The colonial powers placed ports, railways and mines to economically strategic places. The cities have both in colonial and post-colonial times been economically prioritized. People came to these places for nationalistic pride, work, administration, education and social services. The exception is South Africa who, with its strict influx control regime and apartheid policy, to a certain degree managed to control urban growth. It is nonetheless one of the most urbanized countries of Africa and now has a low urbanization growth.
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#The Ministry of the Flemish Government, Department of Education 2001: South Africa: Spatial transformation in the post-apartheid era. A website course in social economic and political geography, and international educational project. [http://impuls.kulak.ac.be/south_africa/Mod4_fringe.asp]
The World Bank Group2001: Upgrading of Low Income Settlements Country Assessment Report: Ghana. http://www.worldbank.org/urban/upgrading/ghana.html
#Todaro, Michael P. 1997: "Urbanization, Unemployment, and Migration in Africa: Theory and Policy." [http://www.popcouncil.org/]
UNDP2003: Human Development Indicators 2003. [http://www.undp.org/hdr2003/indicator/indic_8_1_1.html]
United Nations(UN), Population Devision 2003a: World Population Prospects, the 2002 Revision. Highlights. New York. [http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/wpp2002/WPP2002-HIGHLIGHTSrev1.PDF]
#United Nations (UN), Population Devision 2002: World Urbanization Prospects, the 2001 Revision. New York. [http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/wup2001/WUP2001report.htm]
#United Nations (UN), Statistics Division 2003b: Population of capital cities and cities of 100,000 and more inhabitants. New York. [http://unstats.un.org/unsd/citydata/]
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