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Governments need to make a deliberate effort to create links between urban and industrial development in the context of their national development, it was stated at the launch of the 2017 Economic Report on Africa, a flagship report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).
According to Giovanie Biha, Deputy Executive Secretary of the UNECA 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. She added that 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.
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 that improving the economic functioning of the largest cities will unleash potential benefits to create agglomeration economies.
According to Takyiwaa Manuh, Social Development Policy Division Director, as far back as the early 1960s the ECA was explicitly considering the role of the continent’s growing urban centers in industrialization.
“Today there is even more urgency for policymakers to harness urbanization for structural transformation, given the speed and scale of the urban transition,” she said.
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.
It was further stated that the ECA is 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.