Leveraging Sector Development for Urban Transformation in Africa

Africa along with Asia is the epicenter of rapid urbanization in the 21st century. Urbanization is good news for development. Urbanization and economic growth are positively associated. Countries urbanize as their economies transit from agrarian to industrial.

While this generally holds true, the links are weak in Africa. In the first two decades of post independence period, African countries, supported by import substitution strategies had a nascent but growing manufacturing sector. This however did not last long. Share of manufacturing peaked at 13 percent in the late 80s and began declining, setting off a process of premature deindustrialization. In 2006, Africa’s manufacturing share stabilized at 10 percent, the same level as in 1965.

Resurrecting industrial development as part of a broader structural transformation is a policy priority for Africa, and in recent years the topic has attracted both economists and urban specialists. Recommendations include creating a national system of cities that are connected spatially and functionally. A key component and approach that will be crucial in this endevour will be linking the national spatial vision to priority economic sectors.

The purpose of this study is to identify and tease out, using country experiences, the way the economic and spatial links work at priority sector level and to generate better understanding and insights into urban development opportunities arising from them. This is to be done by looking closely at the flower industry, IT industry and the auto industry, which developed successfully in the last two decades or so, in Ethiopia, Kenya and Morocco respectively. Three questions frame the investigation: what were the specific spatial needs and preferences of the sectors and how they were met?; what was the reverse economic feedback impact on cities and locations affected by the sector’s development and were these spatial implications considered in the sector’s development planning or policy? How far have the cities associated with the sectors, through deliberate local planning actions, succeeded to realize or amplify these links to their economic development advantages?

Project leader(s):
  • Gulelat Kebede (Urban studies and international affairs, The New School, New York)

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