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How can we help cities provide the building blocks for future growth?

Sameh Wahba's picture
Also available in: Español | Français 

Photo: Ngoc Tran / Shutterstock

Basic infrastructure makes all the difference in the lives of people. Sometimes a road is all it takes…

Access to clean drinking water and sanitation can improve children’s health, reduce waterborne disease, and lower the risk of stunting.

Street lighting can improve the safety of a community, reduce gender-based violence, and add productive hours for shops and economic activities, which can help people escape poverty.

A paved road can lead to a world of possibilities for small business owners, increasing access to additional markets and suppliers, as well as opportunities to grow their businesses.

The urban infrastructure finance gap

Cities already account for approximately 70-80 percent of the world’s economic growth, and this will only increase as cities continue to grow. In the next 35 years, the population in cities is estimated to expand by an additional 2.5 billion people, almost double the population of China. As a vital component for connectivity, public health, social welfare, and economic development, infrastructure in all its forms – basic, social, and economic – is critical for the anticipated urban growth.

Globally, the annual investment required to cover the gap for resilient infrastructure is estimated at $4.5-$5.4 trillion. Cities will need partners to help them provide these building blocks for the future. The public sector cannot address these crucial needs alone, and overall official development assistance barely totals three percent of this amount. Cities should begin looking toward innovative financing options and to the private sector.

Urban expansion and resettlement can be a win-win for cities and communities: Case studies from five countries

Maninder Gill's picture
World Bank interview on urban expansion and resettlement

Our planet is undergoing a process of rapid urbanization, and the next few decades will see unprecedented growth in urban areas, including in urban infrastructure. Most of the growth will take place in low-and middle-income countries. The expansion and development of urban areas require the acquisition of land, which often requires physical relocation of people who own or occupy that land.

How can urban resettlement become a development opportunity for those affected by the process of urban development?

A World Bank report titled Urban Land Acquisition and Involuntary Resettlement: Linking Innovation and Local Benefits offers useful examples:

Five ways cities can curb plastic waste

Silpa Kaza's picture

As the world observes World Environment Day this week, we should be mindful that there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish by 2050 if nothing is done, according to the Ellen & MacArthur Foundation.
 
The negative impacts that plastic is having on the environment and human health is profoundly evident:
  • Respiratory issues are increasing because of air pollution from burning plastic.
  • Animal lifespans are shortened because of consuming plastic.
  • Littered plastic is clogging drains and causing floods.
  • And unmanaged plastic is contaminating our precious oceans and waterways…

Building safer, more inclusive, and more resilient cities

Ellen Hamilton's picture

Cities are where most people live and most economic activity takes place. Cities bring opportunities, but not equally for all residents. A lack of access, rights, and opportunities for people within cities undermines the positive role cities can play. 


When people cannot find a decent and safe place to live, or are discriminated against because of their race, religion or where they live, or lack the skills, education and transportation needed to find a job to support themselves, something needs to change.

To make cities safer, more inclusive, and more resilient to a range of shocks and stresses, mayors, planners, and other city leaders should support integrated approaches promoting social, economic, and spatial inclusion. City leaders need to carry out this work in close partnership with the communities themselves.

From April 23–27, 2018, representatives from 16 cities in 13 countries visited Japan for a Technical Deep Dive on Safe, Inclusive, and Resilient Cities to learn from one another about improving urban safety, inclusion and resilience. In this video, Jefferson Koije (Mayor of Monrovia, Liberia), Ellen Hamilton (World Bank Lead Urban Specialist), and Phil Karp (World Bank Lead Knowledge Management Officer) discuss how cities can address these crucial aspects of urban resilience. Watch the video to learn more.

Spatially awhere: Bridging the gap between leading and lagging regions

Sameh Wahba's picture


As the world urbanizes rapidly, international experience has shown that economic activities concentrate in a relatively small number of places – it is estimated that only 1.5% of the world’s land is home to about half of global production.

Such economic concentration is a built-in feature of human settlement development and a key driver of growth. However, while some countries have succeeded in spreading economic benefits to most of their citizens, many other countries have not.

Especially outside the economic centers that concentrate production, there are “lagging areas” with persistent disparities in living standards and a lack of access to basic services and economic opportunities.

Today, over two billion people live in such lagging areas. Over one billion people live in underserved slums with many disparities from the rest of the city in terms of access to infrastructure and services, tenure security, and vulnerability to disaster risk. A further one billion people live in underdeveloped areas with few job opportunities and public services.

How can countries address the division between the leading and lagging regions?

As discussed at the Ninth Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF9) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, we at the World Bank Group are taking an integrated territorial approach through a “spatially awhere” lens to tackle the land, social, and economic challenges altogether.

[Download: World Bank publications on urban development]

Children with disabilities can flourish in society, and education helps them get there

Simona Palummo's picture

What comes to mind when you think about “disability-inclusive education”?

You may start with a few questions, such as:

Are schools wheelchair accessible? Do disabled children have a chance to receive high-quality education despite being “different”? How well trained are teachers to be inclusive of children with disabilities?

Over a billion people, about 15% of the world’s population, experience some form of disability. Most of them live in developing countries. Every day, they tend to face different forms of discrimination and social exclusion. In Africa, for example, persons with disabilities face barriers in education, employment, and business.

Despite these challenges, persons with disabilities can flourish in society, as proved by the studies of Professor Tom Shakespeare from the UK’s University of East Anglia.

Why we must engage women and children in disaster risk management

Monica Vidili's picture

students in Bislig Elementary School in Leyte Province, Philippines

Disasters hit the poorest the hardest. Poor people are not only more vulnerable to climate-related shocks, but they also have fewer resources to prevent, cope with, and adapt to disasters. The poor tend to receive less support from family, community and financial systems, and even have less access to social safety nets, as a recent World Bank report explains.

So, yes, disasters can discriminate on the same lines that societies discriminate against people.

Disasters tend to discriminate along generational and gender lines, as well. Several studies analyzing the impact of disasters have revealed that women and children have greater risks to their survival and recovery in the aftermath of natural disasters. The vulnerability of women and children to natural disasters can be further aggravated by other elements of discrimination such as race, poverty, and disability.

During the 2017 Hurricane Harvey in the U.S., many women—especially women of color—decided to not evacuate risk areas despite all the warnings. Why? All over the world, women and girls are overwhelmingly tasked, personally and professionally, with caring for children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. So, simple life-saving decisions, like discerning whether to evacuate a disaster area, can become a difficult choice.

Poverty and gender norms shape basic survival capabilities as well. For example, according to an Oxfam survey, four times as many women than men were killed in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and India during the 2004 tsunami, because men were taught how to swim and climb trees at young ages, while women were not.

Access to food and nutritional conditions also determine people’s capacities to cope with disasters. Mercy Corps reports that women and men tend to adopt different resilience strategies during droughts in the Sahel region of Africa—and reducing food intake is one of them. In South and Southeast Asia, 45% to 60% of women of reproductive age are below their normal weight, and 80% of pregnant women have iron deficiencies. During food shortages, women are more likely to suffer from malnutrition because they have specific nutritional needs while pregnant or breast feeding. Women also sometimes consume fewer calories to give priority to men and children.

Landslides, dumpsites, and waste pickers

Silpa Kaza's picture
Photo: alionabirukova / Shutterstock
Editorial credit: alionabirukova / Shutterstock.com

Last week, the world came to attention when the famous Hulene dumpsite in Maputo, Mozambique collapsed under heavy rains, killing at least 16 people.
 
Buried under piles of waste were homes and people from one of the most impoverished settlements in Mozambique. Many members of this community made a living collecting and selling recyclables from the dumpsite, which had served as the final disposal site for greater Maputo since the 1960s.
 
Sadly, this tragedy did not stand alone.
 
In 2017, landslides at waste dumps occurred at a shocking frequency, accounting for over 150 deaths and relocation of several hundreds in Colombo, Sri Lanka; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Conakry, Guinea; and Delhi, India.
 
Sixty million people live near the world’s 50 largest dumpsites, most in low and lower middle-income countries, though thousands of other risky sites also exist around the globe. Fifteen million people make a living scavenging waste and are of the population disproportionately affected when poorly or unplanned disposal sites fail to function in the midst of ever-growing refuse and inclement weather. Those most vulnerable to the landslides of dumps are those living on or by these waste disposal sites. They are the ones who often power their cities’ recycling system.

In Africa, sustainable urbanization starts with effective financial management

Sameh Wahba's picture
In most developing countries, cities are struggling with the demands of growing urbanization. A major challenge is the lack of sufficient, effectively managed financial resources. For instance, the global investment needed for urban infrastructure is $4.5-5.4 trillion per year, a figure that dwarfs official development assistance.
 
To bridge the municipal financing gap, cities must take coordinated action with partners, such as private investors and multilateral development agencies to build financial management institutions that are sustainable, accountable, and stable.
 
[Report: Africa’s Cities: Opening Doors to the World]

In East Africa, the World Bank has an operational portfolio of almost $1 billion in urban projects focused on improving financial and institutional performance across multiple local governments in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, as well as operations that focus in-depth on big city governments. 
 
For example, in Uganda, World Bank projects in Kampala increased its inflation-adjusted revenues by approximately 10% in one year, and the secondary city clean audit report performance has improved from 36% to 100% over a period of two years.

Watch a conversation between World Bank Director Sameh Wahba (@SamehNWahba) and Jennifer Musisi (@KCCAED), Executive Director, Kampala Capital City Authority to learn more about Kampala’s transformation in recent years in municipal financing, and what other countries and cities can learn from this experience.

Twelve big moments of building sustainable cities and communities

Andy Shuai Liu's picture

[Put together the puzzle pieces to reveal the picture. Scroll down to #9 for hints.]
 

If the world in 2017 were a jigsaw puzzle, what memorable pieces would you choose to make up the big picture?
 
Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria that pounded coastal United States and the Caribbean; the severe drought that struck Somalia; forest fires that are ravaging through southern California… Hard to miss were the natural disasters that displaced – even killed – individuals and families.
 
There were also the “manmade” disasters – conflicts that erupted or lasted in many parts of the world continued to force men, women, and children out of their homes and homelands.
 
Yet, turning to the bright side, the world has come a long way this year in addressing these challenges to boost inclusive and sustainable growth.


Just a couple of weeks ago, for example, global and local leaders gathered at the One Planet Summit in Paris to firm up their commitment – and ramp up action – to maximize climate finance for a low-carbon, disaster-resilient future.
 
At the World Bank, our teams working on social development, urban development, disaster risk management, and land issues have endeavored with countries and cities worldwide throughout the year to achieve a common goal: building inclusive, resilient, and sustainable cities and communities for all.
 
How did they do? From our “Sustainable Communities” newsletter, we have captured 12 moments that mark the major accomplishments and lessons learned in 2017—and inspire our continued work to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity in 2018:
 
#1: Africa’s Cities: Opening Doors to the World


 
Released in February 2017, our report on cities in Africa notes that, to grow economically as they are growing in size, Africa’s cities must open their doors and connect to the world. Improving conditions for people and businesses in African cities is the key to accelerating economic growth, adding jobs, and improving city competitiveness. Two more reports released in 2017 also shined a light on inclusive urban growth in East Asia and the Pacific and in Europe and Central Asia respectively.

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