Past, present and future perspectives


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Figure 2s.7: Impacts of urban development in Africa

Although most Africans currently live in rural areas, rates of urbanization in the region are among the highest in the world. While urban areas offer considerable opportunities for employment, education and social services, and contribute substantially to national GDPs, they also have their own environmental problems. In Africa, poor economic growth and low investment in infrastructure have left provision of housing and basic services in urban areas lagging far behind the rate of population growth, resulting in a proliferation of urban slums. Slums often lack access to many essential services such as water, sanitation, and waste disposal, concentrate the pressures of pollution on the environment and are detrimental or even hazardous to human health. Emissions from industry and vehicles are additional threats to human health in the larger urban areas.

Investment in urban infrastructure is essential to mitigate existing problems and to prevent exacerbation of the pressures exerted on urban areas by rapid population growth and migration. However, sustained economic growth and strategies aimed at job creation and alleviation of poverty are of pivotal importance if such investments are to be made.

Many African countries have implemented air quality standards and pollution abatement regulations, but integrated planning and investment in infrastructure development remain priorities for urban areas. Figure 2s.7 illustrates the impacts of urban development in Africa.