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Urban population to double - UNFPA

One of Africa’s biggest slums, Mathare, Nairobi, Kenya, 26 May 2007.
(Julius Mwelu/IRIN)

The urban population of Africa will double from 294 million in 2000 to 742 million in 2030, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) stated on 27 June.

"In 2008, for the first time in history, more than half of the world population, 3.3 billion people, will be living in urban areas," said Monique Rakotomalala, UNFPA representative to Ethiopia, at the launch of the annual State of the World Population 2007 Report in Addis Ababa. "By 2030 this number is expected to swell to almost five billion," she said.

Eighty percent of the world's population will live in the developing world in 2030, according to the report.

"If policy makers could reduce the intensity of population growth, they would have more time to address existing needs while preparing to deal with future increases in urban population," Rakotomalala said. "The solution lies in reducing the rate of natural increase by improving the social conditions of the poor and advancing women's rights."

Tewodros Tigabu, programme manger of UN HABITAT in Ethiopia, said Ethiopia, one of the least urbanised countries in sub-Saharan Africa, was one of the fastest urbanising nations with 4.3 percent growth a year.

"By 2020, the level of urbanisation will reach 25 percent, which means that one out of four Ethiopians will be an urban dweller," he said.

In Ethiopia, UNFPA pointed to migration, rather than the more common natural population increase, for the increased urban growth.

"This is an issue of some concern, in particular with regard to the most vulnerable segment of the population, girls and adolescents, who currently migrate in great numbers to urban centres from the countryside, escaping early marriage and in search of opportunity," Rakotomalala said.

The theme of this year's report is ‘Unleashing the Potential of Urban Growth’. "Urbanisation, the increase in the urban share of total population, is inevitable, but it can also be positive," Rakotomalala said. "No country in the industrial age has ever achieved significant economic growth without urbanisation."

''No country in the industrial age has ever achieved significant economic growth without urbanisation''

However, cities faced immediate concerns of poverty, housing, environment and administration. "Sharing three toilets and one shower with 250 households in a community is not at all unusual in cities of sub-Saharan Africa," the report stated. "Conditions like these increase stress on all inhabitants, especially women, who are also subject to greater risks of gender-based violence."


The report revealed that more than half of the urban populations of Angola, Chad, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger, Sierra Leone and Zambia lived below the poverty line.

Tewodros said that in Ethiopia, poverty was increasing faster in urban areas than rural ones. He said that though the incidence of poverty dropped from 47 percent in 1995-1999 to 45 percent in 1999-2000 in rural areas, it increased from 33.3 percent to 37 percent in urban Ethiopia in the same period. He added that 40 percent of the urban population was living in extreme poverty.

According to the UNFPA report, the slum population of sub-Saharan Africa almost doubled in 15 years, reaching nearly 200 million in 2005.

"In sub-Saharan Africa, urbanisation has become virtually synonymous with slum growth; 72 percent of the region's urban population lives under slum conditions, compared to 56 percent in South Asia," the report stated.

Slum dwellers account for a billion people, of whom more than 90 percent are in the developing world. In Ethiopia, the majority of urban dwellers live in slums.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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