Africa is one of the fastest urbanizing regions of the world. Projections indicate that the continent will triple its urban population from an approximate 395 million people in 2010 to 1.339 billion people by 2050, which will be the equivalent of a fifth of the world’s projected urban population at that time. Some African cities with a current population of over 10 million inhabitants include Cairo, Kinshasa, Lagos, Johannesburg-Pretoria, Khartoum, Nairobi and Accra while cities like Luanda and Dar es Salaam are projected to join these ranks soon.
Living in cities can create an urban advantage given that they avail their inhabitants of access to opportunities such as employment and education, social connections, as well as services such as healthcare. Africa’s urban population is mostly young, presenting an insufficiently tapped opportunity for improved regional productivity and economic growth. Currently, many residents and new migrants to cities in Africa live in conditions that are informal, unsafe and without access to the economic opportunities and services that can promote their physical, mental, and social health. Therefore, rather than experiencing an urban advantage, residents of African cities are more familiar with an urban penalty – the complex and multi-layered landscape of risk exposures that are a threat to at their wellbeing.
Some of these exposures include rising inequities, stress, injuries, pollution amongst others, and the double burden of infectious diseases and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) they eventually drive. The complexity of these challenges requires a move beyond risk factor aetiology towards the multilevel elements that drive disease. It also requires coordinated impact that can only be achieved through a move beyond sector-specific siloes and toward to multi-sectoral action. This “Healthy Cities: Intersectoral approaches to non-communicable disease prevention in Africa” workshop, organized by the Research Initiative for Cities Health and Equity (RICHE)|Africa, served as an initial step in this course of action. The workshop was an opportunity to collaboratively identify opportunities to promote health and wellbeing and prevent non-communicable diseases in African cities through investments that support active living and healthy diets. We convened policy, civil society, academic, and private sector actors from various African countries, working in diverse sectors with relevance to health, to identify opportunities to prevent NCDs on the continent through a comprehensive multi-sector lens. In attendance were representatives from several cities in Africa
including Cape Town, Dakar, Douala, Accra, Lagos, Kampala, Harare and Maputo.
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