Urbanization dampens growth opportunities in West Africa, World Bank
While the cities of West Africa grapple with large migratory flows, consisting chiefly of young people, they must tackle the many challenges associated with this rapid urbanization and concentrate on building competitive economies and providing adequate urban services, says the World Bank’s fifth edition of the Economic Update for Guinea, Mali and Niger.
Focusing in particular on the three capitals, Bamako, Niamey and Conakry, the report, titled “The Challenges of Urbanization in West Africa,” considers how the cities could harness and develop their potential for productivity growth and livability.
These three cities contribute significantly to the national economy, with Bamako accounting for 34% of Mali’s GDP, and Conakry and Niamey contributing approximately 27% of the GDP of Guinea and Niger.
“Despite their importance to the national economy, Bamako, Niamey and Conakry are not true drivers of growth: in the three cities, labor productivity, calculated as gross value added (GVA) per capita, is low and has not risen in the last fifteen years, in contrast to the average of 15 other sub-Saharan African cities,” said Meskerem Brhane, Task Team Leader of the World Bank urbanization programs in those countries and co-author of the report.
The report also highlights the absence of urban public services and the lack of access to water, electricity and sanitation. The three cities lag behind the average of sub-Saharan cities and show no signs of catching up.
“To become vectors of growth and provide adequate public services, the three cities should focus on their urban planning and spatial organization, as the three currently have ineffective property markets, which have resulted in anarchical human development and led to investments in buildings and infrastructure far from the center,” said Soukeyna Kane, World Bank Country Director for Mali, Niger, Chad and Guinea. “The lack of investment in infrastructure network, including public transport infrastructure, has exacerbated the problems of urban accessibility and mobility.”
By capitalizing on the increasing numbers of young people and promoting controlled urban management, which coordinates public policies and infrastructure investments, the three capitals will be able to accelerate their development and offer economic opportunities to all their residents.