What future for African cities?

As part of its programme “Le Grand Débat”, the Pan-African radio channel, Africa N°1, dedicated a special issue to the future of African cities. Senior Economist Philipp Heinrigs of the Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat (SWAC/OECD) presented key findings from the most recent update of the Africapolis study, which provides a comprehensive and comparable dataset on urbanisation in West Africa. “Urbanisation dynamics are at the heart of the development process; they represent not only a major challenge but also a big opportunity”, Mr Heinrigs said. “The situation in Lagos today, might not be so different from the one in London in 1840 or New York in 1910”. Mr Heinrigs also evoked the limited capacity of local government to manage the process of rapid urbanisation while highlighting the importance of urban planning and its long-term impacts. “Development does not happen everywhere at the same time and at the same pace”. That is why it is particularly important to develop a spatialised approach to development. Africapolis data highlight the importance of small and medium-sized agglomerations in national urban networks and the emergence of new urban agglomerations through in situ urbanisation.