In This Review

Africa's Urban Revolution: Policy Pressures
Africa's Urban Revolution: Policy Pressures
Edited by Susan Parnell and Edgar Pieterse
Zed Books, 2014, 304 pp.

Sub-Saharan Africa boasts the fastest-growing urban population of any region in the world. With an annual rate of urbanization of 3.3 percent, the region can’t be viewed as primarily rural anymore. Indeed, the authors of this timely collection of essays estimate that if the region maintains its present rate of growth, a majority of Africans will live in cities by 2030. Already today, in absolute terms, there are more Africans living in cities than there are Americans or Europeans living in cities. The authors resist the common tendency to depict Africa’s cities as unfolding ecological and political disasters, instead recognizing that urban populations in sub-Saharan Africa have exhibited great resilience and ingenuity. But the authors do criticize the relative inattention paid to urban policy concerns by the region’s governments and lament the woefully inadequate public resources devoted to improving urban infrastructure and to addressing welfare needs. A lack of resources plays a major role, they concede, but they also argue that African governments have historically feared the potential political power of concentrated urban populations and so have been reluctant to devolve power to the municipal level.