High cost of living stifles urbanisation even as population rises in cities

March 12, 2012 • Africa, Daily Email Recap

The following article seems to be making a distinction between a) population growth occurring in urban areas and b) the idea of urbanisation. We have seen many reports that countries in Africa are rapidly urbanizing, but the point here seems to be that population growth in slums should not be mistaken for “urbanization”. See: http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/news/Why+claim+to++Africa+urbanisation+is+a+fallacy/-/2558/1358506/-/item/2/-/14lcp6w/-/index.html

High cost of living stifles urbanisation even as population rises in cities
By Jeremiah Kiplang’at
Posted  Saturday, March 3  2012 at  12:55

Sheila Sinei, 21, is a jobless resident of Deap Sea, one of Nairobi’s latest slums sandwiched between the high income residential estate of Muthaiga and the middle income Highridge.

She quit rural life several years ago in search of a job in Nairobi. Now, she must buy a packet of flour, sugar, milk, paraffin, vegetables and other basic foodstuffs plus put aside enough money for water.  In other words, she has to live on Ksh103 ($1.3) daily.

But are there opportunities for the millions of households who are migrating to African cities annually?

Nairobi’s Deap Sea slum has a population of about 10,000, quite small compared with Kibera slum’s of 170,000.

Deap Sea is located on a piece of derelict land, like most of Nairobi slums, where some of the inhabitants say they moved from rural areas or other urban locations in search of better accommodation or housing units.

For Ms Sinei, without a job, her only hope is the proverbial lady luck stepping into her shanty with a shopping bag each day. Of course, that does not happen so she has to consistently “borrow from the nearest kiosk” with the hope of clearing debts when a job arises. Her other worry is a cocktail of intense insecurity, lack of facilities like hospitals, schools and latrines.

Her four-square, fly infested dirty iron-sheet room, speaks of the deplorable conditions she has been subjected to.

The fact that property developers eyeing a good return, putting up the slums in squalid conditions -no piped water nor good access to roads – has raised questions as to whether Africa’s cities are just seeing a rise in their urban population but not really urbanising.

It is widely believed that urbanisation is occurring faster in sub-Saharan Africa than anywhere else in the world, as migrants move from rural to urban settlements. A new report by the African Research Institute describes this as a fallacy. The report titled “Whatever Happened to Africa’s Urbanisation?” by Dr Deborah Potts, Reader in Human Geography at King’s College, London makes intriguing observations that may force policymakers to redraw a new “de-urbanisation programme” for the cities.

The report argues  that while the populations of numerous urban areas are growing rapidly, the urbanisation levels of many countries are increasing at a slow pace – if at all.

There are reasons. Potential homeowners in Kenya can hardly own houses. A real estate pricing bubble has pushed the cost of homes to more than 140 times the annual incomes of most Kenyans, making it difficult for millions of families to realise their homeownership dream.

The 2011 Global Property Guide (GPG) shows that Kenyans aspiring to own homes can only do so if they are ready to pay 148 times more than their annual income, making them the most disadvantaged lot on the continent when it comes to homeownership.

The findings have put African governments, policymakers and international donors on the spot as they battle fundamental changes in urbanisation trends in respect to urban employment, incomes and economic development.

For the rest of the article, click here: http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/news/Why+claim+to++Africa+urbanisation+is+a+fallacy/-/2558/1358506/-/item/2/-/14lcp6w/-/index.html


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