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Cities to play increasingly important part in Africa’s development

Jun 14 2018 17:17

Africa’s burgeoning big cities will play an increasingly central role in the continent’s growth and development, driven largely by Africa’s rapid urbanisation.

However, the development of smaller, secondary cities is also important and presents nascent opportunities.

These were some of the key messages to come out of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ (RICS) Summit Africa 2018, which took place recently in Sandton Central, Johannesburg.

The fourth annual edition of RICS’ Summit Africa attracted over 220 local and international built environment professionals, as well as government and business leaders, academics and media.

During his opening conference address, RICS CEO Sean Tompkins, stressed the growing importance of cities, and the need for metropolises to be more financially empowered in dealing with urbanisation and infrastructure challenges.

“Across Africa, families are packing up their lives and trekking to cities…The future of our cities is in flux. More than ever, city leaders need to be proactive rather than reactive, becoming one with their urban citizens.

“Cities need to become more independent from national budgets... But, to keep pace with urbanisation, cities can’t rely solely on user or property charges to retrofit and expand themselves,” said Tompkins.

Stumbling block

He said poor access to finance is a key stumbling block when trying to develop a city’s transport, housing stock and utilities. The low tax base in many African economies was another challenge Tompkins highlighted, which restricted the ability of growing cities to invest in much needed infrastructure projects.

He also cited debt across the continent as a worry. However, he said there were ways of improving access to finance in developing countries, highlighting Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) as a way for paying for major public works.

“Financially empowered, cities can adapt to the changing world faster than nations can,” said Tompkins.

Addressing the gala dinner of RICS Summit Africa, Xoliswa Daku, of CEO of Daku Group, said while mass urbanisation in Africa was seeing much of the focus being place on major cities, smaller or mid-sized cities were the ones to look at too in terms of investment and infrastructure roll-out.

RICS President, John Hughes (FRICS), said most economic growth is generated in cities.

"Crucially, economic growth is dependent upon a good physical environment to operate in. We can’t have cities where you sit for hours in traffic trying to get to the airport… In Africa and much of the developing world, the pace that urbanisation is taking, is outpacing physical infrastructure development,” he said.

Hughes added that as a global organisation with 150 years of experience, RICS could contribute to addressing some of these challenges. He said collaboration was key for RICS, as it partnered with organisations in Africa to contribute to the development of sustainable and more resilient cities, and the broader built environment sector on the continent.

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gbcsa  |  africa  |  urbanisation  |  africa economy


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