Africa’s growing urbanisation means that cities have to continuously expand to accommodate the influx of people. With infrastructure on the top of Africa’s development agenda, city leaders and planners need to give critical consideration in their long-term urban planning to developing and maintaining sustainable infrastructure.
In its publication, ‘Advisor to African Cities’, which is part of its Cities Series, KPMG has identified 10 global sustainability mega-forces that urban planners must consider for the development of cities in the next 20 years. Five of the most critical are population growth, energy, water scarcity, ecosystem decline and food security.
David O’Brien, Global Head of KPMG’s Cities Centre of Excellence, says that the influx of people into the cities is good from an economic point of view as it tends to aggregate people and jobs together. “However,” he says, “massive urbanisation marginalises large segments of the population as people end up in unplanned settlements where service delivery is not always readily available.”
Ever-growing cities will mean rising energy costs. Further, water scarcity is set to become a reality as South Africa is expected to hit a 234 million m3 water deficit by 2025. Because cities already struggle to accommodate the existing population with the current infrastructure, further strain is placed on limited resources as the population grows. Energy and water provision are largely driven by infrastructure availability. Accordingly, these should be addressed as a priority to ensure that we build cities that will be sustainable.
Another factor to consider is the decline of ecosystems. As cities become overpopulated, all the conditions for a poor ecosystem arise. With urbanisation comes a compromised ecosystem.
In order to provide sufficient infrastructure, cities need access to funding. To borrow funds, cities need to have good budgeting systems, clean audits, a good and stable government and the ability to pay back the interest on the debt – and this is not always in place with most municipalities.
O’Brien believes it is up to governments to devise ways to allocate proper funding to the cities to the point where they can have the resources available to provide a more efficient energy system and deal with water scarcity problems.
He adds, “This can be achieved by either changing the legislative structure to allow cities to have more access to revenue or encouraging economic development in rural areas in order to discourage urbanisation.”
As urbanisation increases, food production no longer takes place in the rural areas because farmers move to the cities for better prospects.
“The more you take rural land out of production, the less land you have to make food, resulting in food scarcity across the economy. The trick is to encourage the rural population to stay rural as much as possible so that there is a good economic base for agriculture and specifically food production. The agricultural system should be supported through incentives to allow farming operations in the rural areas to be sustainable and create jobs. In this way, urbanisation can be slowed down and food production can continue,” says O’Brien.
The current South African census reports that 62 percent of the country’s population live in urban areas. It is estimated that, by 2030, this will be approximately 70 percent.
Goddard Khitsane, Associate Director at KPMG’s Government Advisory Services, states that the Government’s initiatives in tackling capacity challenges affecting cities are a move in the right direction.
“We welcome the Government’s initiative of seeking a national approach in addressing rapid urbanisation through a National Integrated Urban Development Framework. This will indeed go a long way in assessing the capacity challenge that is critical to delivering essential municipal services and towards the development and maintenance of the country’s infrastructure.”