African policy makers to debate urban transformation in Lagos

Babatunde Fashola

Economist Conferences, a sub-group of the Economist Group, publishers of the Economist magazine, is rallying leaders and policy makers from across Africa to a forum to discuss new ways of tackling pressing issues of urbanization.


This year’s conference, themed ‘Managing Africa’s urban transformation,’ will take place May 30th – 31st in Lagos. It is expected to provide a platform for over 100 participants to debate challenging questions around managing, designing, and financing the continent’s cities.


The forum will also discuss the future of Africa’s urban transformation with an international group of experts.


Majors from such African cities as Johannesburg, Harare, Cape Town, and Dar Es Salaam are confirmed to participate.


“Urbanization is happening faster in Africa than anywhere else in the world – by 2050, 60 percent of Africans will be city dwellers,” says Marianne Mazou, Conferences Director, MEA, at The Economist Group.


“Our Future Cities summit will feature those managing, designing, planning and financing Africa’s most innovative cities, as well as leading authorities in urban planning, construction, transport, energy, architecture and sustainability,” she adds.


Ms. Mazou said that urban development in Africa has been haphazard, fragmented, and characterized by a lack of long term strategic planning and incoherent investments.


“For Africa’s expanding cities to function in the future, policy makers need new and innovative approaches to urban development, infrastructure, environmental issues, transportation, social services and housing.


“This is what our Future Cities summit is going to provide,” says Ms.



Ousmane Thiam, President, International Association of Public Transport, said that joining urban development policies with mobility strategies at an institutional level, and putting in place sustainable transport services and quality infrastructure are key to managing Africa’s urban transformation.


“I look forward to exchanging with high level policy makers and professionals from across the African continent on how to achieve a public transport network which is efficiently and effectively linking economic activities and people,” Mr. Thiam said.


Other topics to be discussed include Africa’s greenest cities; how smart cities and the use of innovative technologies have the potential to transform the city landscape; and the role of the informal economy.


“Africa’s dynamic cities have a chance to forge a new kind of urbanism

– if they harness the entrepreneurial energies of their citizens,” says Robert Neuwirth, Author of Stealth of Nations and Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, A New Urban World.


“It’s exciting to have so many of the continent’s urban leaders in one room,” he said.


Sustainable urban development will be showcased in action, with participants having the opportunity to visit the site of Eko Atlantic City on the second day of the conference.


“By reclaiming nine million square metres of land from the Atlantic ocean, we are generating enough space now to build a 21st century city for the future,” says David Frame, Managing Director of Eko Atlantic.


“Our participation in The Economist’s Future Cities conference enables us to join an important debate on the urbanization of Africa at the highest level.”

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