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Africa’s rapid urbanisation tops agenda at RICS Africa Summit

Africa’s rapid urbanisation tops agenda at RICS Africa Summit

Bennet Kpentey, Chief Executive and Managing Consultant at Ghanaian-based Sync Consult Management Consultants









Africa’s cities need to brace themselves for millions more people over
the next few decades with the continent having one of the fastest
urbanisation rates in the world. This was one of the main messages at
the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ (RICS) Africa Summit in
Sandton Central, Johannesburg, last week, with delegates hearing that
rapid urbanisation presented both challenges and opportunities.

Better urban planning and massive investment in infrastructure is
needed to cater for the influx of people looking for job
opportunities, higher salaries and urban lifestyles in Africa’s
burgeoning cities.

Delivering the opening keynote address, Bennet Kpentey, Chief
Executive and Managing Consultant at Ghanaian-based Sync Consult
Management Consultants, highlighted the rapid pace of urbanisation in

Kpentey said: “Cities in Africa with more than a million people
increased from 52 in 2011 to 65 in 2016. This rate of urbanisation is
on par with Europe and higher than India and North America.

He added: “With 40% of the population living in cities, Africa is more
urbanised than India (30%) and almost at par with China (45%). By 2030
Africa will have 760 million urban residents, increasing to 1.2
billion by 2050 according to the African Economic Outlook 2016

Kpentey said while Africa’s rapid urbanisation presented
infrastructure challenges for its major cities, this was also a sign
of a prospering continent. “Africa has a young population with a
growing labour force and is expected to have the world’s largest
working-age population of 1.1 billion by 2034… Household consumption
in Africa grew at a 4.2% compound annual rate between 2010 and 2015,
while the McKinsey Global Institute forecasts Africa’s household
consumption will reach US$ 1.4 trillion by 2020 and US$2 trillion by
2025. The African Development Bank predicts that by 2060, about 1.1
billion Africans will be in the middle-class. Most of these African’s
will be residing in the continent’s cities.”

Kpentey said with Africa’s upward mobility, high urbanisation and
continued economic growth, there was an increased number of mega
infrastructure projects in Africa. However, he said the continent
needed to accelerate infrastructure development through innovative
means such as public-private-partnerships.

Speaking on the availability of land for urbanisation, Emeka Eleh,
Principal Partner of Ubosi Eleh and Company in Nigeria, said massive
urbanisation has seen people scrabbling for space in the country’s
biggest city, Lagos. This has resulted in a rise in slums as urban
planners in the city struggle to develop infrastructure and plan ahead
to deal with millions of people descending on Lagos.

“The challenge is that urbanisation in much of Africa takes a life of
its own, with regulators not being pro-active enough by planning
ahead. Urban areas are key to economic growth, and it is important for
cities to be planned and managed to deal with rapid urbanisation. Not
planning for urbanisation, will mean higher infrastructure development
costs and other challenges,” he said.

Eleh added: “Lagos is Africa’s most populace city with between 18-20
million people and growing at about 3.2% annually. One of the
initiatives that have come about as a result of the city’s
urbanisation challenges is the development of new cities on the
outskirts of Lagos on reclaimed land, such as Eko Atlantic City. In
fact, the bulk of development in Lagos currently is taking place on
reclaimed land, which is helping us deal with our urbanisation and
land challenges.”

In his keynote address at the RICS Africa Summit, Jacob Mamabolo,
Gauteng MEC for Infrastructure, said as the economic powerhouse of
Africa, Gauteng was attracting about 300,000 people annually from the
rest of South Africa and other African countries. He said the rollout
of infrastructure in the province was no easy task, given that Gauteng
was the most populace province and continued to attract more people.

“We have prioritised infrastructure investment in Gauteng… In the last
three years – between 2013 and 2016 – Gauteng’s infrastructure
investment amounted to R30 billion. This translates into an average
annual growth rate in infrastructure spending of 20.7% – the fastest
growth rate for any province in the country,” said Mamabolo.

He added: “Over the next three years a further R42 billion will be
spent on infrastructure in Gauteng, while nationally almost a trillion
rand will be invested in infrastructure… The benefits of prioritising
infrastructure spending cannot be underestimated.”

Speaking at the summit, RICS President Amanda Clack, who is also
Partner at EY and Head of Infrastructure (Advisory) for the UK and
Ireland, said by investing in core infrastructure, governments were
ensuring the economic future of a country and its cities.

“Infrastructure investment is vital to supporting rapid urbanisation
and creating the world’s future cities. The world is facing an
infrastructure funding gap of US$57 trillion until 2020.
Infrastructure investment has the power to drive social change, create
jobs, support businesses, improve the environment and create a better
world in which to live,” she said.

Clack said: “Today, the global urban population is 54%. In 2050, the
UN predicts that the global population will be nine billion, with 66%
living in urban centres. That’s 6.3 billion people living in cities.
With rapid urbanisation, cities are taking on greater importance and
need to deliver infrastructure to accommodate growing populations and
attract talent and investment.”

She added that RICS’ position in Sub Saharan Africa is that of an
international body fitting into the jigsaw of local built environment
associations. “In the face of increased urbanisation and to meet
growing infrastructure needs, the region must attract investment
capital from across national and continental boundaries.”

Clack said, as a consequence, there was a greater worldwide demand for
international standards and the professionals who can work to them.
These help to create consistency and trust in markets.

London-based RICS is a global professional body that promotes and
enforces the highest qualifications and standards in the areas of
land, real estate, construction and infrastructure. As a public
benefit organisation, it operates in all the world’s major financial
hubs in delivering international standards and policy influence.

The 2017 RICS Africa Summit was sponsored by Colliers International,
Cushman & Wakefield Excellerate and the Green Building Council of
South Africa, and supported by the International Facilities Management