Cities in Africa and Asia to double in size by 2030: UN Population Fund

27 June 2007 –

The population of African and Asian cities will double by 2030, adding 1.7 billion people, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says in a new report which calls for addressing rising urbanization by helping the poor.

Humanity will have to undergo a “revolution in thinking” to deal with the change, according to State of World Population 2007: Unleashing the Potential of Urban Growth, released today.

“What happens in the cities of Africa and Asia and other regions will shape our common future,” said UNFPA Executive Director, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid. “We must abandon a mindset that resists urbanization and act now to begin a concerted global effort to help cities unleash their potential to spur economic growth and solve social problems.”

To take advantage of potential opportunities, governments must prepare for the coming growth. “Leaders need to be proactive and take far-sighted action to fully exploit the opportunities that urbanization offers,” said Ms. Obaid.

According to the report, as of 2008, more than half the world’s 6.7 billion people will live in cities. Though so-called mega-cities – those with more than 10 million people – will continue to grow, most will be living in cities of 500,000 or fewer. By 2030, the urban population will rise to 5 billion, or 60 per cent of world population.

The report recommends that city authorities and urban planners make it a priority to provide for the shelter needs of the urban poor by offering secure tenure on land that is outfitted with power, water and sanitation services. Those living in poor communities should have access to education and health care and should be encouraged to build their own homes, the report says.

“The battle for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to halve extreme poverty by 2015 will be won or lost in the cities of the developing world,” said Ms. Obaid of the global anti-poverty targets set at a 2000 UN summit. “This means accepting the rights of poor people to live in cities and working with their creativity to tackle potential problems and generate new solutions.”

“The report says that policymakers should shift the emphasis from stemming migration to delivering social services and investing in women and cities,” UNFPA’s Ann Erb Leoncavallo told a press briefing at UN Headquarters in New York. “Investing in education and health, including reproductive health and voluntary family planning, is the best way to address urban population growth.”

She cautioned that what happens in cities in the future in Africa and Asia effects all people. “Now is the time to begin a concerted international effort for unleashing the potential of urban growth of having people come together and find common solutions to these problems,” she said.

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