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African cities warned of
more crime and violence

Nairobi, 4 March 2014:
Growth of cities, towns and villages in Africa is continuing unabated, further adding to the continent’s already significant urban challenges. Due to its still limited incorporation in the global economy, Africa has escaped many of the impacts of the global recession following the 2008/9 financial crisis, albeit that it has been affected by such indirect consequences as lower demand for raw materials and shifts in tourism. But the authors of a new report by UN-Habitat warn that urban crime and violence is also growing and that youth unemployment will pose a threat to the fabric of urban society.

The report ‘The State of African Cities 2014’, published yesterday, states that due to their growing middle classes, by 2030, Africa’s highest-performing 18 urban economies may have a combined purchasing power of US$1.3 trillion. However, this prediction may be somewhat premature because, despite ten years of comparatively high Africa-wide economic growth, poverty remains a deeply pervasive phenomenon with about 50 per cent of Africans living on less than $1.25 per day, and only 4 per cent receiving more than $10 per day.

On combat, the report says African countries have seen a decline in both sovereign and civil wars although there is a rise in urban violence. However, although fewer wars have contributed to improved African economic performance, there are indications that the decline in warfare has been accompanied by a rise in urban violence.

“Deadly protests and riots inspired by food and fuel price shocks, for instance, have swept through the continent in 2008 and in 2010. Ethnic and religious violence is on the rise in many cities. Terrorist attacks have increased in several African sub-regions. Organized crime is growing, and election-related violence has become commonplace,” the report’s authors say.

UN-Habitat suggests that that expanding green technologies can help reduce youth unemployment while, at the same time, reducing the ecological foot print of African cities. “Africa is transitioning towards a whole new socio-economic and political landscape through rapid urbanization driven by massive population growth. But urban infrastructures, services, and land markets, as well as the urban economies, cannot absorb the newcomers to the cities, whether large or small.”

According to the authors, Africa’s populations are young and, by 2040, youth is projected to reach 1.1 billion. It will then be the largest labour force in the world, surpassing even those of China and India. This growing demographic youth bulge could drive Africa’s development and provide urban consumer markets of regional or even global relevance. But urban unemployment levels in Africa continue to be dangerously high, especially amongst youth.


Uganda government cracks
down on opposition mayor

Kamapala, 19 November 2013:
The Mayor of Kampala, one of the most outspoken critics of Uganda’s government, was arrested yesterday and held in a police station for several hours. Erias Lukwago, who in the 2011 mayoral election gained almost twice as many votes as the government-backed candidate, is accused of inciting violence and disobeying orders. The mayor was picked up at his home as he was going to address an opposition rally in the centre of the Ugandan capital. A police spokesman called the arrest appropriate. “We are not allowing the rally to take place and we are sticking to that,” he told reporters.

Yesterday’s arrest was not the first time that Mayor Lukwago was taken into police custody. Since his popular election in 2011, the mayor was arrested several times for participating in demonstrations organised by the opposition. Earlier this month, a government tribunal found him guilty of disobeying directives, incompetence and abuse of office. The tribunal decision could lead to the impeachment of the mayor.

Uganda’s opposition leader Kizza Besigye called the tribunal a political show trial, designed to get rid of a popular government opponent. “The process of censuring and removing the mayor from office has been patently and comprehensively fraud. The reason the government had to override any kind of rules and laws is because of the overwhelming political desire of President Yoweri Museveni to take over Kampala through the back door,” he said.

If the tribunal’s decision is upheld by a court of appeal, it is likely that Erias Lukwago was Kampala’s last directly elected mayor. The government has proposed that the next mayor would be selected from among the city’s five district mayors.


South African cities 'cheated'
by construction companies

Cape Town, 13 July 2013:
Five South African cities assert they have been overcharged by construction companies, which built the soccer stadiums for the 2010 World Cup. A spokesman for the country’s local government association (SALGA) said Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane were overcharged on World Cup projects and could collectively seek as much as 3.9 billion rand (US$394 million) in compensation. The claim by South Africa’s largest municipalities follows a larger investigation by the Competition Commission, where 15 companies agreed to pay a total of $147 million in fines in a fast track settlement to avoid prosecution for "rigged" projects in South Africa between 2006 and 2011, which include World Cup work.

SALGA estimates that Cape Town was overcharged by as much as 2.2 billion rand ($220 million) and Johannesburg 608 million rand. The association provided reporters with examples of what it called ‘bid rigging’ for World Cup stadiums which ‘impacted’ host cities. SALGA said a cartel of companies overcharged by between 10 and 30 per cent. SALGA’s chief of operations, Lance Joel, also claimed that in Cape Town and Johannesburg agreements were in place between bidding companies created to ensure that bid losers would be compensated by the winning companies. “In Port Elisabeth bidding companies agreed on a 17.5 per cent mark up,” SALGA alleged.

The listed construction company WBHO, which was charged some US$31 million in connection with 21 rigged construction projections said in a press statement that only one of its projects involved in the settlement related to the World Cup and that the issue did not result in inflated prices. Liviero, a privately-owned construction company, said it voluntarily came forward and disclosed information to the Competition Commission relating to anti-competitive practices that occurred in the past.

South Africa spent more than three billion dollars on the 2010 Football World Cup.

African cities important drivers
of national and regional growth

Johannesburg, 4 February 2013:
Accra, Lusaka and Luanda, the capital cities of Ghana, Zambia and Angola have been identified as the Sub-Saharan African cities that have the highest potential for growth over the next five years. New research produced by the University of South Africa (UNISA), explores how cities across Africa are playing an increasingly important role in driving national and regional growth, how they need to compete on the global stage in order to attract inward investment, and how these cities urgently need to manage their natural and human resources more effectively as they grow.

Of the 19 researched cities, Accra, the capital city of Ghana, was ranked as having the highest growth potential, followed by Lusaka and Luanda, which were both identified as having medium-high growth potential.

“Some of the key reasons for Accra emerging as a high growth city include: its gross domestic product per capita growth over the past three years, its projected population and household consumption growth, its strong regulatory environment and the relative ease of doing business in this city, compared to other African cities,” Professor Angelopulo from UNISA explained.

While many of Africa’s larger and more established cities offer the expected potential for growth, other less prominent ones are quietly establishing themselves as those with even higher growth potential. This is primarily due to high scores on accelerated growth factors that include health, education, governance, infrastructure development, and the ease of doing business in those cities.

Johannesburg, although already a strong economic powerhouse city in Africa, achieved lower scores in certain categories as a result of lower growth expectations due to its relative maturity when compared to other African cities. For example, the expected growth of the middle class population is higher in cities such as Accra and Luanda than it is for Johannesburg, which has seen a growing middle class since the end of apartheid in the 1990s.

Harare (Zimbabwe), Kano (Nigeria), Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire), and Khartoum (Sudan) were deemed to have the lowest growth potential of the 19 cities examined in the study. Although these cities scored well in some categories, such as the overall health index and the levels of foreign direct investment, their potential for growth was negatively impacted by low scores in areas such as their political and regulatory environments, lower historical economic growth and the challenges of doing business.

The research was commissioned by MasterCard for its African Cities Growth Index. Explaining why MasterCard chose to develop this new index specifically for Africa, a spokesman said Africa was a region where the lines between the developed and developing worlds were dissipating owing to various economic, demographic and technological factors. “Most of these factors have been associated with the increased urbanization of the continent.”

Africa’s urban children
at risk from exploitation

Nairobi, 8 December 2012:
A humanitarian group has warned that children living in African cities are increasingly at risk of exploitation, abuse and disease. A new report by Save the Children said right now about 200 million children live in African urban areas, and the numbers are steadily rising. Save the Children warned that social and development policies were ignoring the reality that more children are living in slums with devastating impacts. The report said sub-Saharan African cities have the highest degree of urban poverty and prevalence of slum populations in the world. In Africa, about one billion people are expected to live in urban areas by 2040.

The report said many governments underreport the size of urban populations, especially in slums and informal settlements and added there were four priorities that must be addressed to ensure the health and safety of children in urban settings: health and nutrition; livelihoods; education and child protection.

A member of Save the Children reported: “As we talk to local NGOs, non-governmental organisations across Africa, this issue of unaccompanied children, children on the streets – talking about buses pulling in to Addis Ababa and there are actually people watching to see if a boy or girl is unaccompanied, and then preying on them for sexual purposes, or others. There is a household in Malawi – one that we interviewed – with four children out of school, no adult in the household – relying on an uncle to give them some money now and then – out in the streets begging.”

Urban settings often lack the community protection that exists in rural areas. In a rural setting there is likely to be a grandparent or an auntie or an uncle. People in a rural community know everybody. That disappears with a move to an urban setting.

The report also said poor children were often not in school because they faced many barriers such as fees, disabilities, lack of food, bullying and sexual harassment. “Their health is put at risk from a lack of clean water and sanitation, poor nutrition and a lack of access to health care due to cost, travel, waiting times or other reasons.”

Among its recommendations, Save the Children called for holistic child protection systems like those in developed countries; enhanced hygiene and sanitation awareness and practices; trained community health workers; linking youth skills training to the awarding of grants and loans; better access for the disabled; and quality control, standards and training to support early child care development.