Poor infrastructure, agricultural uncertainties, climate change, energy inaccessibility and growing social inequalities are among the factors characterizing the urban population explosion taking place in Africa. In the next 35 years, Africa will need to accommodate almost 900 million new urban dwellers according to a recent report from the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. But what does this mean for the future development of African nations, its cities and its rural communities?

l to r: Khalifa Sall, Patricia de Lille, Zeinab Bedawi, Aisa Kirabo Kacyira at this year's forum.

l to r: Khalifa Sall, Patricia de Lille, Zeinab Bedawi, and Aisa Kirabo Kacyira at this year’s forum.

At this year’s Mo Ibrahim Foundation forum, ‘African Urban Dynamics’, panelists and attendees discussed a diverse range of proposals that could position African megacities, towns and even rural communities for future economic success. The viability of these proposed solutions will help determine whether a future with safe, clean, equitable and sustainable living environments for people on the continent will be possible.

Here are 3 of the best proposals from this year’s forum
  1. Make agriculture ‘cool’ again
    Youth unemployment in Africa is 3 times higher in urban areas than in rural ones. Assistant Secretary-General of the UN-Habitat, Aisa Kirabo Kacyira (@AKacyira), describes this as “empty dream cities”. She said youth in rural areas move to cities in hopes of a better life but without an action plan. To tackle this problem, President of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina (@akin_adesina), said governments have a responsibility to change the labor composition of the agricultural sector by creating ‘agri-preneurs’ and making farming ‘cool’.
  2. Think outside the box
    International Executive Director of Greenpeace, Kumi Naidoo (@kuminaidoo), asked why Africans are not using available resources to transform their cities and rural townships into sustainable places of living. Naidoo said he envisions a solar panel on every rooftop in Africa to address energy inaccessibility issues and the inconsistent supply common to both urban and rural areas. Naidoo also said he believes a reliable, affordable public transportation system can be successfully implemented, citing BRT systems and the example of public buses in Bristol, England powered by human waste.
  3. Embrace urbanization
    Co-Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies at the University of Oxford, Paul Collier, described the urbanization of Africa as “inevitable”. He said governments have a responsibility to ensure all urban dwellers are able to remain productive through freedom of mobility, a business friendly environment, building outward and planning cities in a way that supports change. Fellow panelist and Mayor of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille (@CityofCTMayor) said developing an appropriate digital infrastructure will also help support increased productivity. She said other African cities should look to the example of Kigali, where wi-fi services are free in public buses.
Hanna Tetteh

Minister of Foreign Affairs & Regional Integration, Hanna Tetteh, addressing the crowd

The day-long forum in Accra was also an opportunity for Ghana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs & Regional Integration, Hannah Tetteh (@HannaTetteh) to challenge the gathering of urban experts, politicians, development professionals and entrepreneurs from across the continent and diaspora. She asked that they go beyond the day’s proposals and use the dialogue generated during the forum to take strategic action that will ensure the continent’s future success.

“We need to think much more creatively about the way we plan our cities, so that they are inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.” – Hanna Tetteh