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Urban Fragility and Security in Africa

Urban Fragility and Security in Africa

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Published by Davin O'Regan
The rapid pace of often inadequately governed urban areas in Africa generate new sources of instability. For more information as well as forthcoming versions in French and Portuguese, visit: http://africacenter.org/acss-publications/security-briefs/
The rapid pace of often inadequately governed urban areas in Africa generate new sources of instability. For more information as well as forthcoming versions in French and Portuguese, visit: http://africacenter.org/acss-publications/security-briefs/

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Published by: Davin O'Regan on Apr 09, 2011
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Urban Fragility and Security in Arica
Unprecedented rates o urban migration over the past decade have contributed to a dramatic expansionin the size o urban slums and higher levels o poverty, violence, and instability in Arica’s cities. 
The drivers o violence associated with urban ragility are primarily related to weak and illegitimategovernance, inequitable development, limited livelihood opportunities, and legal structures that inhibitland tenure and new business start-up. 
Solutions to Arica’s urban ragility cannot be addressed solely through security structures but mustbe part o a broader development strategy.
NO. 12 / APRIL 2011
zones or state security orces. And as urbaniza-tion accelerates, the security problems are likelyto grow worse.Urban ragility is a orm o state ragility—acontext o deteriorating governance and prolongedpolitical crisis or conlict—with a locus in urbanareas. Fragile governments lack either the will orcapacity to deliver basic services to and provide se-curity or their citizens. Grievances around this lacko essential services, coupled with increased inse-curity, crime, and lawlessness, contribute to greaterlevels o urban violence.Urban centers, especially capitals and regionalcities, are also typically seats o government andthereore sites o intense competition or politicalpower and resources. As Arican urban areas arerequently represented by all o the major ethnicArica’s rapid urbanization is a new and un-derappreciated driver o state ragility. Fostered byprospects o economic opportunity, conict-relateddisplacement, and environmental pressures in ruralareas, Arica’s cities are growing by an estimated 15to 18 million people each year.
With more than 40percent o Aricans below the age o 15, many o them destitute, Arica’s cities have become denselyconcentrated centers o unemployed young men.This is a combustible mix that can intensiy vio-lent crime, gang activity, illicit trafcking, linksto transnational organized criminal syndicates,and political instability. The repercussions aectvirtually every country on the continent. Theslums o Kibera (Nairobi), Karu (Abuja), Soweto(Johannesburg), Camp Luka (Kinshasa), Bonaberi(Douala), and elsewhere are already largely no-go
2groups in a society, they are also arenas or defningnational identity and testing the state’s capacity tobalance the demands o competing political com-munities. The high population densities o urbanareas, moreover, acilitate political mobilization andchallenges to national power. The resulting politi-cal unrest poses a direct threat to the stability o Arican states.The security ramiications o urban povertyare o growing importance since, by 2025, the ma-jority o the poor in Arica will live in urban asopposed to rural areas—reversing a longstandingpattern. In many countries, moreover, the poorest20 percent in urban slums have worse human de-velopment indicators than the poorest 20 percentin rural areas.
This, in turn, ampliies susceptibil-ity to poverty-induced instability, including thespread o disease and ood shortages. It is estimatedthat 300 million urban Aricans will be withoutsanitation by 2020. Roughly 225 million will nothave access to potable water. These risks were il-lustrated in the 2007–2008 urban riots in BurkinaFaso, Cameroon, Senegal, and Mauritania, amongother Arican countries, whichbroke out in re-sponse to rising prices o ood, clothes, and gaso-line. In the process, government buildings weredestroyed and many people injured. With oodprices once again rising rapidly, these tensions arelikely to resurace.Despite these mounting stresses, national andinternational actors have invested relatively littlein urban development, livelihoods, governance, orprograms to help stem the volume o urban migra-tion. These changing demographics, however, willundamentally reshape the Arican security environ-ment or decades to come.
Arica is in a historic period o demographicchange. In the early 1990s, two-thirds o all Aricanslived in rural areas. By 2025, more than hal o theArican population will live in urban areas. And dur-ing the next quarter century, the urban populationwill grow almost twice as ast as the general popu-lation, increasing by more than hal a billion rom1990 levels.Worldwide, urban population levels o roughly3.3 billion are projected to double by 2050. TheArican urban population, however, is expected tomore than double its current level o 373 millionby 2030 (see igure 1.1). That is, by 2030 therewill be 760 million Arican urban dwellers, morethan the total number o city dwellers in the entireWestern hemisphere today. The East Arica regionhas the world’s shortest projected urban populationdoubling time at less than 9 years: rom 50.6 mil-lion today to an estimated 106.7 million by 2017(see fgure 1.2).Arica’s three giant urban agglomerations, Cairo,Kinshasa, and Lagos, continue to rise rapidly in theirranking among the world’s largest metropolitan re-gions. In 2007, the urban metropolis o Cairo had11.9 million inhabitants, Lagos 9.6 million, and Kin-shasa 7.8 million. In 2015, Cairo will have 13.4 mil-lion, Lagos 12.4 million, and Kinshasa 11.3 millioninhabitants—ranking 11
, 17
, and 19
, respectively,among the world’s largest metropolitan regions. Pro-jections show that Kinshasa, with 16.7 million inhab-itants, will be Arica’s largest urban agglomerationin 2025.
While Arica has the world’s highest rate o urbanization, it also has among the lowest rates o urban economic growth. Accordingly, urbanizationin Arica has diered rom other regions o the worldin important respects. In other regions, urbaniza-tion ollowed jobs—created as a result o increasedinvestment and economic activity generated romthe agriculture sector. In Arica, there has been con-sistent underinvestment in agriculture leading to lowproductivity gains. This has limited the availability
Dr. Stephen Commins is a Lecturer in the Departmento Urban Planning at the University o Caliornia, LosAngeles, School o Public Aairs.
“the security ramifcations o urbanpoverty are o growing importancesince, by 2025, the majority o thepoor in Arica will live in urban asopposed to rural areas”
3o assets that could be invested in o-arm economicactivities in urban areas. The combination o growingeconomic globalization and expanded industrializedcountry agricultural subsidies, by constricting marketsor Arica’s agricultural exports, has worsened thispredicament in the past decade. Consequently, unlikeall other regions o the world, urbanization in Aricahas not contributed, through economies o scale andvalue-adding production chains, to overall growth ingross domestic product.
A notable aspect o urbanization in Arica, then,is that it has not, by and large, led to improvementsin basic well being. This runs counter to the generaltheory that urbanization provides greater access tojobs, basic services, and social saety nets. Rather,the percentage o people with access to services inmany Arican countries has not kept pace with therise in urbanization. In other words, while Aricancountries are “late urbanizers,” they host some o the most deprived and volatile slums in the world.These tensions have been exacerbated by inadequategovernment capacity and unaccountable governancestructures that restrict opportunities or citizens toarticulate grievances.
The poor in urban areas ace a distinctive seto risks that accentuate ragility compared to therural poor. Poor people in urban settings have agreater dependence on cash income and markets,including or ood. They are thereore more vul-nerable to uctuations in ood prices. In contrast,most rural households can produce some o theood they need at times o economic shocks andprice increases. Accordingly, when there are steepprice increases in ood or other basic daily neces-sities, Arica’s urban dwellers immediately eel thepinch. Urban unrest under these circumstancesbecomes much more likely.Urban areas are also more exposed to pollu-tion, poor sanitation, and water shortages.
Theapproach to slums by many governments is to viewthem as illegal settlements. Governments are re-luctant to bestow such settlements with legal rightsgiven the fnancial costs involved in providing in-rastructure and services. Politicians, meanwhile,gain limited political beneits or assisting slum
“unlike all other regions o theworld, urbanization in Aricahas not contributed, througheconomies o scale and value-adding production chains, tooverall growth in GDP”
: United Nations Human Settlements Programme

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