Addis Ababa — The Economic Commission for Africa's flagship, the Economic Report on Africa 2017, was launched in Addis Ababa today with Deputy Executive Secretary, Giovanie Biha, calling on African governments to make deliberate efforts to create links between urban and industrial development in the context of their national development plans.
Ms. Biha, who presided over the launch, said reconnecting urban and industrial development in Africa through deliberate policies, strategies and investments is a priority for the sustainability of both cities and industries.
"As countries are developing overarching frameworks within which strategic targets for structural transformation are defined, national development plans offer an ideal context within which urbanization and industrialization targets could be linked," she said.
"In this way, urban and industrial strategies could be explicitly linked to broader national goals such as poverty reduction and improved well-being in both urban and rural areas."
Ms. Biha said available evidence suggests that urban and industrial development in Africa are disconnected, resulting in lost opportunities for job creation and improved well-being.
"It is therefore not surprising that Africa's cities are crippled by severe infrastructure and service gaps and are unable to generate employment at the level and scale required to meet increasing demands, especially for the youth," she added.
ERA 2017, whose theme is Urbanization and Industrialization for Africa's Transformation emphasizes that cities require better performing industrialization and industrialization on the other hand needs better functioning cities. Africa is currently faced with the challenge of creating productive cities and efficient urban systems that can support structural transformation, recommending therefore that improving the economic functioning of the largest cities will unleash potential benefits to create agglomeration economies.
Speaking at the same occasion, ECA's Social Development Policy Division Director, Takyiwaa Manuh, said with industrialization being a core priority for the continent, there was an urgent need to link urban and industrial development.
"For ECA, this agenda is not entirely new. As far back as the early 1960s, ECA was explicitly considering the role of the continent's growing urban centres in industrialization," she said.
"Today there is even more urgency for policymakers to harness urbanization for structural transformation, given the speed and scale of the urban transition."
The report provides concrete policy entry points for African governments to prioritize industrialization and take advantage of their growing cities and human settlements to support this target. It also calls for a strategic, cross-sectoral and integrated approach to urbanization, which promotes productive, inclusive and sustainable cities as part of national visions for quality growth.
Ms. Manu said drawings on the findings and recommendations of the report, the ECA was already working on key areas, including how to integrate urbanization in national development planning; how to assess the contribution of cities to national economies; and the data and indicators required to assess the ability of cities to support structural transformation, in particular industrialization.
Professors Belay File and Yeraswork Admassie of the Institute of Urban Development Studies and the College of Social Sciences at the Addis Ababa University, respectively, led participants in discussing the findings of the report and how they can assist Africa get to the next level of development.
Ms. Manuh said the discussion directly informs the ECA on what to follow-up on in the next ERA in support of member States' efforts to take advantage of the current rapid urban transition they are experiencing.
The launch was attended by high-level participants, including Ambassadors based in Addis Ababa, policymakers, academia, representatives from the Ethiopian government and UN agencies here.