Africa, along with Asia, is the epicenter of global urbanization. It is undergoing a rapid urban transition and is set to be the fastest urbanizing region in the coming decades. In 1990 only a third of Africa’s population was urban (31 per cent)—by 2035, the figure is projected to reach 49 per cent. This shift has profound implications for achieving the continental and global targets for inclusive growth and transformation, including Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. Theory and global experience show that urbanization and structural transformation are closely linked—but less so in Africa, which has largely followed its own urbanizing path weakly tied to structural transformation, including industrialization. It has thus lost many opportunities for enhanced growth and productivity, for poverty reduction and for social development.
Urbanization in many African countries has not been driven by improving agricultural productivity. Indeed, most countries are urbanizing rapidly amid declining or stagnant industrial output and low agricultural productivity. In resource-rich countries, natural resource exports and related spending, largely on non-traded services, appear to be driving urban growth, generating “consumption cities.” Africa’s target of structural transformation is to shift labour out of low-productivity agriculture into higher-productivity manufacturing and modern services. But the long-run trend of this shift has been dominated by the informal sector—often services—where jobs remain concentrated, many in urban areas, with detrimental effects for economy wide productivity. African cities thus face low productivity, tepid job creation, high informality, huge infrastructure and service gaps, weak linkages with rural areas, high levels of informality, increasing inequalities, growing environmental damage and vulnerability to climate change and weak institutional systems and capacities. Unless resolved, these impediments will undermine Africa’s urban potential for structural transformation. The challenge confronting Africa is thus to accelerate structural transformation by harnessing the rapid urban transition to promote economic diversification, with a special focus on industrialization that will create jobs, enhance access to basic services and reduce inequality and poverty. The links between urbanization and industrialization have generally been weak or absent in Africa, underlining the urgent need to connect urban and industrial development given their interdependence and growth impacts. This Economic Report on Africa 2017 examines how to accelerate industrialization as a vehicle for structural transformation in Africa by harnessing opportunities from rapid urbanization. It analyses the challenges and opportunities, as well as the drivers, enablers and policy levers for strengthening linkages.
In order to provide interested stakeholders from government, business, civil society and academia with a better understanding of how urbanization can serve as an instrument of accelerated industrialization and structural transformation in Africa, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) together with its training arm, the United Nations Institute of Economic Development and Planning (UN-IDEP), has partnered with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) to offer this e-learning course based on ECA’s Economic Report for Africa 2017 (ERA 2017).
At the end of the course, participants will be able to:
- Discuss the recent main developments in the world economy and how they affect the African continent;
- Identify the main economic and social developments in Africa;
- Better understand how urbanization has manifested in Africa in terms of its economic, social and environmental impacts;
- Identify the challenges and opportunities for Africa in terms of utilizing the continent’s rapid urbanization for the fostering of industrialization;
- Examine how deliberate planning can result in a balanced system of cities and adequate urban form in a manner that enables industrialization;
- Discuss how African countries can integrate urban and industrial policies in order to optimally harness the potential of urbanization for structural transformation.
The course consists of the following modules:
Module 1: Recent Economic and Social Developments in Africa (ERA 2017)
Module 2: An Overview of Urbanization and Structural Transformation in Africa
Module 3: The Urbanization-Industrial Nexus
Module 4: Urbanization and Industrialization in Practice
Module 5: Urbanizing to Industrialize: Policy Responses
Week 6: Evaluation/Questionnaires/Surveys
This self-paced course will be delivered from 23 October to 24 November, 2017. The course will be moderated asynchronously on a weekly basis and participants are required to participate in the weekly on-line discussions. In addition, each module has interactive lessons that provide the core content around the topic for that module. The lessons are designed in a way that learners are also able to self-assess their understanding through built-in quizzes. Additional resources such as bibliographies, web links and optional readings are provided for participants who wish to deepen their knowledge of the course topic.
The course targets groups and individuals that are interested in obtaining a better understanding of how urbanization can serve as an instrument of accelerated industrialization and structural transformation in Africa, as presented in the ERA 2017. They include:
- Civil servants in National Ministries (primarily Economy, Trade, Industry, Planning and Finance), provincial departments and local authorities
- Diplomats from Permanent Missions and Ministries of Foreign Affairs
- Officials from Regional Economic Communities (RECs)
- Professionals in private sector and civil society organizations
- Faculty, researchers and students
- Interested citizens
Acceptance to the Course
Applicants to the course are expected to have, as a minimum, a bachelor’s degree preferably where courses related to economics, trade, industrialization, structural transformation, planning and finance have been covered. In addition, two years of work experience will be required. Women candidates are also strongly encouraged to apply.
The number of participants is limited to 75 persons. Until the registration deadline, participants are accepted to the course on a rolling basis and subject to availability of slots.
Certificate of Completion
A Certificate of Completion will be issued by UNITAR and UN-IDEP to all participants who successfully complete the course-related self assessments presented for each module.
Access to internet is an essential condition for participation. The following specifications, as a minimum in terms of hardware and software, are required to take this e-Learning course, please consult your Network Administrator or Systems person to ensure that you have the following:
- Platform: Windows 95, 98, 2000, NT, ME, XP or superior; Mac OS 9 or Mac OS X; Linux
- Hardware: 64 MB of RAM, 1 GB of free disk space
- Adobe Acrobat Reader
- Adobe Flash Player
- Microsoft Office (Windows or Mac) or Open Office
- Browser: Internet Explorer 7 or higher or Firefox 3.6 or higher
- Modem: 56 K