The informal sector is a large part of employment in African cities. The International Labour Organization estimates that more than 66% of total employment in Sub-Saharan African is in the informal sector. With a pervasive informal sector, city governments have been struggling with how best to respond. On the one hand, a large informal sector often adds to city congestion, through informal vending and transport services, and does not contribute to city revenue. Furthermore, informal enterprises are typically characterized by low productivity, low wages and non-exportable goods and services. On the other hand, the informal sector provides crucial livelihoods to the most vulnerable of the urban poor.
“City plans must fit the people, not the other way round.” Jane Jacobs, journalist and urban studies author
Ibadan, the third largest metropolitan area in Nigeria after Lagos and Kano, has organically grown from around 60,000 inhabitants in the early 1800’s to more than three million today, and is projected to reach 5.6 million by 2033. The city’s urban footprint continues to sprawl due to weak land use planning that leads to the proliferation of informal settlements in flood prone areas.
Last year two of my friends welcomed new babies into their families: James and Maureen (not their real names). Both babies were born in Metropolitan Nairobi - the fastest growing urban area in the country. Their births added to the growing urban popluation in Kenya, which will double to 24 million by 2035 and more than triple to 40 million by 2050. The Kenya Urbanization Review projects that by that time, that there will be nearly as many Kenyans living in urban areas as there are Kenyans today. Kenya’s urban transition has begun.