Urbanization in Africa: Veolia pleads for co-creation

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The Continent is transforming itself in giant steps, and the number of its inhabitants is increasing. This demographic development, which has led to rapid urbanization, poses the public authorities with a huge challenge: to offer populations the best possible access to resources while preserving the environment.

Veolia, the world leader in optimised resource management, is one of the most important partners of the African public authorities in helping them meet this challenge.

Africa is changing speed and changing at a high rate. In just ten years, it has established itself as the continent of growth, investment, and attractiveness. By gaining 1 billion people by 2050 to reach 2 billion people, the continent is poised to experience an unprecedented urban revolution. The figures are edifying. Two out of three Africans will live in one city, while today already 52 African cities have more than 1 million inhabitants. This demographic growth favors the emergence of new connected middle classes that boost economic growth.

Over the last ten years, Africa has recorded a growth rate of almost 5%. It is expected to grow at similarly high levels in the coming years. But this growth brings with it significant challenges that must be met.

Growth that must be helped

Urban expansion and population growth inevitably lead to tensions over municipal resources. Tensions are first of all over drinking water, and then over the consequences of the discharge of wastewater, which increases in proportion to the number of inhabitants and the water consumed, but also over energy sources, which are becoming increasingly scarce and whose exploitation becomes insufficient to meet the needs of a growing population.

There is, therefore, no need to emphasize the importance of investing in these strategic sectors. Investment needs in sub-Saharan Africa’s cities are estimated at more than $35 billion per year. African cities, which have the highest growth rate in the world, need to catch up in this area because there is a delay and its consequences can be catastrophic.

When urban growth occurs without infrastructure and uncontrolled, it creates friendly neighborhoods that are not connected to essential services and become sources of inequality, soil pollution, and social tensions. Cities without solid and well-thought-out infrastructure are time-delayed health and environmental bombs.

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Tailor-made to serve Africa

The construction of tomorrow’s metropolises requires not only the establishment of real urban infrastructures for transport, waste collection, access to energy and drinking water in particular, but also the clarification of land rights to facilitate the emergence of a formal real estate market. How to meet the challenge?

There is no miracle recipe in Africa or abroad. Several conditions must be met: stable and robust governance of countries; decentralization of responsibilities for the management and piloting of infrastructures; access to international financing; and local responses to local problems. More than that, it is necessary to innovate by proposing tailor-made offers in response to domestic challenges and above all by developing pragmatic and agile solutions.