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World Bank Report Highlights Ills In African Cities
By Ballah M. Kollie
MONROVIA, February 15 (LINA) – A World Bank has indicated that urban workers in Africa are forced to pay high commuting costs, or they cannot afford to commute by vehicle at all.
According to the report released recently, the informal minibus systems are far from cost efficient, leaving many to have to walk to work, adding, “The need to walk to work limits these residents’ access to jobs.”
The report notes that overall urban household pay 20 to 30 percent more for goods and services compared to other developing countries at similar income levels.
It recalled that Africa’s cities dwellers pay around 35 percent more for food than in low-income and middle-income countries elsewhere.
“The need for higher wages to pay higher living costs makes businesses less productive and competitive, keeping them out of tradable sectors. As a result, African cities are avoided by potential regional and global investors and trading partners,” the report affirms.
It said the key to freeing Africa’s cities from their low-development trap is to set them on a path toward physical and economic density, connecting them for higher efficiency and boosting expectations for the future.
The report therefore calls for formalized land markets, clear property rights, and institution of effective urban planning, to make early and coordinated infrastructure investments that allow for inter-linkages among housing, infrastructure, commercial, and industrial development.
“What cities do now will determine their shape and efficiency not just for years to come, but for decades or even centuries,” stressed Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez, Senior Director of the World Bank’s Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice.
For him the answer is to address the structural problems affecting African cities. Africa needs to strengthen institutions that govern land markets, and coordinate urban and infrastructure planning.
According to him, fragmented physical development cities in Africa are 20 percent more fragmented than Asian and Latin American ones is limiting productivity and liveability.
Meanwhile, the Lead Urban Economist at the World Bank and author of the report, Somik Lall, has said Africa’s leaders and policy makers need to focus on early, coordinated infrastructure investments, especially when focusing on the issue from an investment standpoint.
Without this, he said, they will remain local cities, closed to regional and global markets, trapped into producing only locally traded goods and services, and limited in their economic expansion.