Recently the Daily Maverick has published a number of pieces speaking to some of the consequences of urbanisation that often go overlooked by the public. In particular, two articles have risen key insights about service delivery and access in the face of large-scale urbanisation.
Professor Sue Parnell of the African Centre for Cities (ACC) points out that there is a critical lack of understanding of African economics. “We don’t understand the informal sector, so we stereotype,” she says. “We don’t understand Africa’s urban labour market very well.” There is also a tendency to inflate increases in wealth, because it is coming off such a low base, and there is a lack of knowledge about where to invest, she says.
One of the major challenges facing African urbanisation today is an anti-urban bias, believes Parnell. “The population may be 50/50, but 90 percent of the funding will go to rural development,” she says. “This speaks of a definite anti-urban bias.” This, too, means that poverty and inequality in cities are real, significant problems. However, she points out, there are also other factors at play, such as a belief that there is more internal expertise on agriculture, for example; or there may be political factors – such as a desire amongst donors not to create more economic competition by developing African urban interests. However, she points out, through the painstaking work of scholars and academics, attitudes and thought patterns are slowly changing.”