The panel shares foci on how to unleash the productive potential of urbanization for Africa' structural transformation, including through strengthening rural-urban linkages.
African is urbanizing fast. Africa's experience of urbanization has however followed a path delinked from development whether in terms of a green revolution or an industrial revolution, resulting in lost opportunities for enhanced growth and productivity and posing specific challenges for sustainable transformation. Urbanization in Africa has largely been triggered by the development of natural resources exports rather than by improvements in agriculture and manufacturing productivity. Africa's urbanization has thus been characterized as "urbanization without development".
To accelerate structural transformation in Africa, a clear grasp of the role urbanization could play is needed. Decisions made today in response to rapidly evolving urban realities and trends, and about where and how to invest in urban areas will fundamentally shape the future economic geography of Africa. Urbanization can be a positive force of transformation only when it is planned and managed adequately to optimize its productive potential and ensure its sustainability.
Importantly, harnessing urbanization for Africa's industrialization calls for the strengthening of rural-urban linkages. Given the dominance of agriculture in African economies, the potential of an agricultural-led industrialization through value addition is considerable. Deliberate policies are needed to raise agricultural productivity and connect villages to input and output markets in urban areas. It is thus critical to explore the role of urbanization in Africa's industrialization and agricultural modernization both of which are key pillars of structural transformation. The panel will focus on these issues with a view to sharing experiences and identifying entry points to unleash the transformative potential of urbanization.