The World Bank: “Sub-Saharan Africa’s Cities are Crowded, Disconnected and Costly”

A new report by the World Bank was released on February the 9th, 2017, on the current state of Sub-Saharan Africa’s cities. The report notes the three major issues hindering the development of African cities: they are crowded, disconnected and costly.


According to the report called, Africa’s Cities: Opening Doors to the World, the population in Africa’s cities are rapidly growing. In Fact, urban areas contain 472 million people and that number is expected to double over the next 25 years. This situation calls for the urgent provision of productive jobs, affordable housing and efficient infrastructure within the cities of Africa.

However, the reality in Africa is far from that. As the World Bank report warned, Sub-Saharan Africa’s cities are urbanizing at lower income than other developing regions with similar levels of urbanization. This is mainly because investments in “infrastructure, industrial and commercial structures have not kept pace with concentration of people, nor have investments in affordable formal housing”.

This situation have had negative repercussions on life conditions of city dwellers in Africa. They have to pay higher costs for services and food than their counterparts in similar other developing regions. They also struggle to access affordable and dignified housing. In fact, “urban households pay 20 – 31 percent more for goods and services in African countries than in other developing countries at similar income levels”.

Another big problem that urban workers face in African cities is transportation. With lacking or nonexistent systems of public transport, workers are forced to spend more for commuting by private car or minibus taxi. Those who can’t afford transport walk to work.

Businesses are also affected by the costliness of African cities, the report found. Firms have to provide higher wages and therefore become less competitive.

Nevertheless, the picture is not all bleak within Africa’s cities, the authors of the report assure. In fact, “if well managed, cities can help countries accelerate growth and open the doors to global markets”.

And in order to achieve that, the report recommends to reform urban land markets by simplifying property rights and reinforcing city plans and to coordinate early infrastructure investments by making the physical and infrastructural structures more livable and affordable for people and more attractive to business.

To download the World Bank report, Africa’s Cities: Opening Doors to the World, click here.

For more information, you can visit the World Bank website here.