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close this bookSustaining the Future: Economic, Social, and Environmental Change in Sub-Saharan Africa (UNU, 1996, 365 pages)
close this folderPart 1: Economy and society: development issues
close this folderUrbanization and industrialization: What future for Sub-Saharan Africa?
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentThe continuing rapid rate and scale of urbanization
View the documentThe urban environment
View the documentThe limitations of industrialization
View the documentThe impact of structural adjustment
View the documentSub-Saharan Africa as the global periphery
View the documentImplications for urbanization and industrialization
View the documentReferences

Implications for urbanization and industrialization

The preceding analysis leads me to the following set of linked contentions with respect to the future prospects for urbanization and industrialization in Sub-Saharan Africa.

1. Urbanization in Sub-Saharan Africa is increasingly urbanization of and by the poor; urban environments are increasingly environments of poverty, with all the attendant pressures and problems not least for the poor themselves.

2. In the struggle to survive, poor people inevitably put today's food and income ahead of tomorrow's environment, be it urban or rural. Generally, the environment suffers, although refuse-pickers and associated scrap-recycling activities may reduce urban solid waste disposal and litter problems significantly - albeit under unhealthy and even hazardous conditions (see Furedy 1990; Bouverie 1991).

3. Industrialization in Sub-Saharan Africa is highly unlikely to expand and diversify dramatically or to provide a great many more jobs in the near future, even after restructuring, more selective investment, and greater domestic sourcing of inputs where possible. The most significant industrial growth is likely to occur in the relatively small-scale sector (see 5 below).

4. Moreover, recession and state sector cut-backs under structural adjustment are exacerbating industrial pressures on the environment and often make the enforcement of conservation or pollution abatement legislation - even where such does now exist, as in Nigeria - more rather than less difficult.

5. Existing urban conditions and current trends are clearly unsustainable, and rather more radical changes will be required to promote sustainability than is implied in more official pronouncements by local, regional, or national state bodies and private companies around the world on the subject. Equally, the view that the environment is of secondary importance to the imperative of employment generation and economic growth must be challenged as untenable in the face of the wealth of available evidence. The basic prerequisite is action on poverty in the broadest sense. Different forms and types of industrialization, technology, and energy policies must be explored, promoting local suitability, greater local and sustainable resource use, and, where appropriate, more labour-intensive techniques (Environment and Urbanization 1992). The building materials industry is a prime case for treatment (Simon 1992), with major potential environmental and economic benefits. Generally, the "informal" and wider small business sectors can play a significant role within integrated strategies but do not represent a panacea in themselves. There is now a well-established case for addressing the problems and needs of small enterprises (both formal and "informal") in an integrated manner (Bromley 1993).

6. Urban management and government (or "governance," in contemporary international agency parlance) will also need to undergo major reorganization in line with these objectives, the need to democratize structures, and fuller public participation and control (Stren and White 1989; Environment and Urbanization 1991; Devas and Rakodi 1993; chap. 6 in this volume). Although the new rhetoric is now being widely adopted, substantive change is still rarely evident. Addressing the continued alienation of a sizeable proportion of the urban population represents a formidable challenge.

7. Given Sub-Saharan Africa's global position, greater collective selfreliance and innovativeness will be necessary. The shift in emphasis underlying the reconstitution of the Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference (SADCC) as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in August 1992 is indicative of such thinking. Counter-trade and other unconventional forms of exchange may need to be expanded. Current democratization across Sub-Saharan Africa could also be instrumental, if it proves genuine and substantive rather than purely symbolic. Overall, the problems remain formidable but I do sense renewed hope and energy amid the poverty, despair, and violence in many parts of the continent. Although the much-vaunted dawning of a post-Cold War "new world order" has clearly proved premature - in Africa as elsewhere - some significant gains have been made in many states, even as Angola and Somalia sink ever deeper into chaos. It is also worth reminding ourselves that the critical instability currently gripping Sub-Saharan Africa's most populous and well-endowed countries (Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zaire) symbolizes the difficulties and resistance to be overcome in moving to a more open, democratic, participatory - and therefore potentially sustainable - order.