Kisumu, Kenya, 18 May 2022 (ECA) – Local and national governments convening at the 9thAfricities gathering in Kisumu from 17 to 21 May 2022 concluded that mid-sized cities spread the benefits of access to cities to a large and dispersed rural population in Africa, while offering critical advantages for agricultural transformation.
During the gathering – the largest meeting of local governments in Africa, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in partnership with UN-Habitat convened a specific session to examine the role of intermediate – or midsized – cities in Africa’s economic development and actions needed to unleash their untapped potential.
The session aimed to facilitate a dialogue between officials from different levels of government and stakeholders on better policy coordination on urbanisation and to identify actions to leverage economic opportunities presented by Africa’s midsized cities, which usually have a population of fewer than 300,000 people. As of 2015, midsized cities host about 47 per cent of Africa’s urban population.
Delegates representing various parts of the continent set forth an array of recommendations that should be considered at the national and local levels to strengthen the role of midsized cities as the drivers and accelerators of Africa’s economic transformation.
“Intermediate cities should focus on the development of women and young people as well as on their infrastructure and modernisation,” said Ms. Rohey Malick Lowe, Mayor of The Gambia’s capital Banjul, at the in-person session. She added that midsized port cities such as Banjul were hard hit by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and were in urgent need of a planned recovery.
Speaking at the session, H.E. July Moyo, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Local Governments, said that midsized cities in Africa were largely agricultural and that incentivised investment should be considered in higher-value-added economic activities. He further stressed the role of quality education in advancing the productivity levels of the economies of midsized cities.
Mr. Charles Hinga Mwaura, Principal Secretary for Kenya’s State Department for Housing and Urban Development, shared Mr. Moyo’s views and further rose concern that inequalities and lower living standards in midsized cities were becoming crucial challenges. In response, he recommended that the authorities should consider innovating taxation and land value capture schemes to boost investment in the midsized cities and their services.
Building on these proposals, Mr. Dmitry Pozhidaev, Regional Director of the UN Capital Development Fund, highlighted the prudential limits – such as the inability to borrow –preventing midsized cities to create bankable projects. He said national and local policy efforts should focus on making Africa’s midsized cities investment-friendly.
The recommendations from the discussion will inform the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa’s work on urbanisation and development going forward.
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