Urbanization and the New Cities of Sub-Saharan Africa.
Modern urbanization in most Sub-Saharan African countries has been dominated by the growth of a single primate city, the political and commercial center of the nation; its emergence was, more often than not, linked to the shaping of the country during the colonial era.
As even greater numbers of people moved to a small number of rapidly expanding cities, the fabric of life in both urban and rural areas changed in massive and often unforeseen ways. With the largest and one of the most rapidly growing cities in sub-Saharan Africa, Lagos has experienced the phenomenon of urbanization as thoroughly as any African nation, but its experience has also been unique–in scale, in pervasiveness, and in historical antecedents.
In countries with a coastline, this was often a coastal port, and in Nigeria, Lagos fitted well into this pattern. Unlike most other nations, however, Nigeria had not just one or two but several other cities of major size and importance, a number of which were larger than most other national capitals in Africa.
Throughout Africa, societies that had been predominantly rural for most of their history were experiencing a rapid and profound reorientation of their social and economic lives toward cities and urbanism.
Today’s world is fast becoming an urban world — and according to many, the faster that happens and the bigger the cities get, the better off we all will be. The old suburban model, with families enjoying their own space in detached houses, is increasingly behind us; we’re heading toward heavier reliance on public transit, greater density, and far less personal space.
There is a large volume of internal migration in the country induced by scarcity of land, impoverished soil, declining crop yields, poor harvests and soil erosion, among others. The acquisition of some level of education or skill is also an important factor that prompts migration. Internal migration takes different forms and patterns, but the most significant is the movement from rural areas to urban centers. Rural-urban migration is responsible for the de-population of some rural areas and the influx of people into towns and cities.
In the face of biting economic crunch and political uncertainty, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana has also, in the last one decade or so, witnessed increased level of e-migration. International migration, particularly in the West African region, has also become intensified in the context of the emerging Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
According to Steve Watson in his article: The New City – “Globalization means that now more than ever, cities are in competition with each other – competition for business, resources and, thanks to the ease of migration, for people too. In the case of a bold new project like Masdar City, the objective is clear – it must find a way to keep the air-conditioning units running or its new citizens will soon leave their shiny new homes. In older, more established cities it’s harder to see the struggle for survival, but it’s there nonetheless”
How would a city of 10-million or more in Sub-Saharan Africa fare in a general strike or civil war? What effort would be required to reactivate the water or electrical system or the food supply chain after an earthquake or flood in rapid developing city in West Africa?
Photo Credit: Filipspagnoli’s Blog