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Addressing the better future of African cities

Book: Street Addressing and the Management of Cities
Authors: Catherine farvacque, Lucien Godin, Hugues Leroux, Florence Verdet and Roberto Chavez
Publisher: The World Bank
ISBN: 0-8213-5814-4
Year: 2005
Pages: 198
Reviewer: Nyasigo Kornel

The massive migration of people from rural into urban areas is the most spectacular demographic upheaval that Africa has experienced in recent decades.

While Africa was 80 percent rural at the time of independence, its rate of urbanization now stands at 50 percent, and the trend is expected to continue over the coming years.

The World Bank published a book titled Street addressing and the Management of Cities. The book surveys over 13 countries and shared experience in the urban development sector in Francophone Africa and Anglophone Africa and suggests an agenda for future, focusing on the fundamental questions on the future of African cities.

The book was distributed and dialogued through videoconference throughout the World and in Tanzania the dialogue was shared at Tanzania Global Development and Learning Center (TGDLC).

The key questions on the dialogue were on what should be the priority areas of action under future urban projects? Who should be the partners? Where should urban investments be made, and how should they be financed?

The book proposes a priority agenda for the urban sector in the region. The basic principles underpinning the approach to the framework for intervention are to find simple solutions to complex problems, dont lose sight of the beneficiaries; and to choose the right partners. It also suggests some operational tools covering urban planning, land management, urban finance, taxation, and municipal contracts.

As cities in developing countries have confronted demographic explosion, urban management has become all the more challenging amid the current trend toward decentralization.

According to the book, experience in urban management has shown that local governments have often been unable to develop the resources they need to deal with urban growth.

The authors project that against this backdrop, system for identifying streets, buildings, and plots have simply been unable to keep up with the pace urbanization.

As a result, 50 per cent or more of the City Street in these countries have names or addresses. It has been observed that the problem is even more acute in the poorest neighborhoods.

In the book, the World Bank posed a worrisome predicament for urban services. With no system of coordinates and no baseline information, how do you find your way around a constantly growing city? The book asks.

It goes deep to the social service delivery that how do we dispatch ambulances, firefighters, and law enforcement personnel quickly? How do we send mails at home? How do you locate urban facilities and infrastructure and maintain them?

The author wonders on how do we pinpoint breakdowns in water, electricity and telephone systems? And how do we improve on-site collection of water and electricity bills? How do we set up an efficient system for local taxes?

The World Bank has actively contributed to the thinking on urban issues through specific urban strategies and the implementation of urban development projects.

A lot of attention has been focused on the cities demographic explosion bust after the 1997 printrun of the book titled The future of African Cities.
It also look ahead, though, and predict that there is every reason to think that there are bigger, equally unpredictable economic risks on the way.
Perhaps the biggest such issue in the next ten years will be the quick pace of change in the economic status of individuals. Advances in technology, in particular, have increased the chances both of striking it lucky, and becoming very wealthybut also of being unlucky, and becoming very poor in African exploded slums.
The likely outcome is both greater economic uncertainty and greater inequality.
Due to rise of population in cities, inequality has been on the rise in virtually all poor countries, especially Africa in recent decades. This increase appears to be due, in large part, to changing technology, such as rapidly advancing communications, information and control technology, and its effects on an interdependent world economy. It is true that, by some measures, Africa income inequality has been decreasing notably because of infrastructure. But there are reasons to expect a longer-run tendency towards much greater inequality.

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