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Table 3.3 African cities with the greatest number of secretariats of international organizations,a 1993
|Principal secretariatsc||Secondary secretariatsc||Grand|
|Latin America and Caribbean|
Source: Union of International Associations (1993: table 10).
a. International organizations include all non-profit bodies, whether governmental or non governmental.
b. Secretariats located in differently named suburbs/districts are not always included.
A: International organizations with global or intercontinental membership (i.e. Yearbook categories A C).
B: Regionally defined membership organizations, representing at least three countries in a particular continent or subcontinent region (i.e. Yearbook category D).
C: Other (including funds, foundations, religious orders, etc. i e. Yearbook categories E, F. R).
Many other variables can provide pertinent insights, as revealed in a far more extensive study (Simon, 1992). Although these often reveal a high level of congruence, because dominance-dependence and core-periphery relationships are mutually reinforcing, there is no necessary direct correlation. For example, although Cairo followed by Johannesburg are Africa's busiest airports in terms of aggregate passenger flows, the balance between international and domestic passengers is more revealing in terms of connectivity with the world economy. Cairo's passengers are overwhelmingly international, and scheduled flights serve a far wider range of destinations around the world than is the case with any other African airport. Although Johannesburg has high domestic flows, international traffic has always been considerable and it has risen markedly since the late 1980s as the demise of apartheid approached. By contrast, Lagos has surprisingly low international passenger throughputs, deriving the bulk of its flows from domestic traffic. Nairobi's high international passenger flows have suffered over the past few years as a result of political unrest deterring some foreign tourists, coupled with the far smaller number of flights between Europe and South Africa stopping to refuel since the introduction of the Boeing 747-400 at the beginning of the 1990s. This example serves as a reminder that the relative positions of individual cities (especially within a single world region) in the world system, on one or more specific variables, can change rapidly in response to political, economic, and/or technological developments (Simon, 1992). It is important not to regard relative positions, as shown by indicators such as those used here, as immutable, and thus to assume too deterministic a perspective.
Overall, though, Africa has been becoming more, rather than less, peripheral in global politico-economic terms over the past two decades or so. This is symbolized by the fact that there is no true world city, however defined, on the continent, and no immediate prospect of there being one in the foreseeable future (Simon, 1992, 1993; see also chap. 2). However, the actual picture is more complex. The process of globalization has been operating extremely unequally, having its principal impact in capital and other major African cities. In key respects, therefore, these pivots between domestic and international relations, these basing points for international transactions, are as well integrated into the continental and even global system of cities as into their domestic space economies. But intra-urban inequalities are probably even sharper than the urban-rural disparities discussed in detail in the following section. The accumulation of capital and the sophistication and often ostentatious Western lifestyles of the national élites and bourgeoisies are built on exploitation. The majority of residents in Cairo, Johannesburg, Lagos, Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Abidjan, or Dar es Salaam have little stake in this globalizing, materialistic culture. As Friedmann and Wolff (1982, p. 322) put it, "The juxtaposition [of extreme wealth and poverty] is not merely spatial; it is a functional relation: rich and poor define each other." This applies as much to Africa's mega-cities and others with important supranational roles as to world cities per se. In the next section, I move on to explore the relationships between economic performance and urbanization, with respect particularly to rural-urban disparities and prevailing politico-economic conditions.
Urbanization trends and their relationship to economic and social conditions
Urbanization levels and rates since 1960
With an aggregate urbanization level of only 31 per cent in 1991, sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is the least urbanized continental region in the world, although there is considerable diversity between its constituent countries. At 54 per cent, the average figure for the Maghreb was rather higher than for SSA (table 3.4). These UN Development Programme (UNDP) data1 show that altogether only five African states had over half their populations recorded or estimated as "urban" in 1991: Djibouti (81 per cent), Libya (70 per cent), South Africa (58 per cent), Tunisia (54 per cent), and Algeria (52 per cent), while the Zambian figure was exactly 50 per cent. The first two are both exceptional - Djibouti as a micro-state and Libya as a vast tract of desert with its population concentrated in Tripoli and Benghazi. Potts (1994, p. 6, and chap. 13) argues that the Zambian data are spurious, since the 1990 census showed an urbanization level of only 42 per cent, a mere 2 per cent higher than in 1980.
According to UNDP (1993), another 11 countries fell in the 40-49 per cent range, namely Egypt, the Congo, Gabon, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, and Zaire. The majority of countries had levels of between 20 and 39 per cent, while the least urbanized were Malawi (12 per cent), Burkina Faso (9 per cent), Rwanda (8 per cent), and Burundi (6 per cent) (table 3.4). As noted in chapter 2, given the significant differences between countries in terms of the definition of an urban area, not to mention the recency, coverage, and accuracy of the most recent census, these figures should be treated with caution, i.e. as ballpark estimates rather than as totally reliable.
Given the low levels of urbanization, it is hardly surprising that urban growth rates have been consistently among the highest in the world over the past 30-odd years, approximately the period since most African countries were decolonized and colonial restrictions on rural-urban mobility and migration rescinded. The annual average for SSA has been 5-6 per cent, compared with 3-4 per cent per annum for total national population growth. At the upper extreme, many of the principal (usually primate) cities have grown by 9-11 per cent per annum. According to table 3.4, Botswana (13.5 per cent), Swaziland (10.5 per cent), and Tanzania (10.3 per cent) experienced the most rapid rates of urban growth, which explains their average current urbanization levels in relation to the negligible figures recorded in 1960. Only four other countries - Lesotho, Libya, Mauritania, and Mozambique - experienced urban growth of 8-10 per cent per annum. These seven countries were among the poorest in Africa in 1960. Four of them still are, but Swaziland has experienced a marked improvement in economic and social conditions (attested to by its Human Development Index rank of 117) and Libya and Botswana have benefited from dynamic economic growth precipitated by oil and diamond exploitation, respectively, which in turn has been utilized to increase overall social well-being commendably.
Table 3.4 African urbanization trends, 1960-2000
Human Development Index rank
Urban population (as % of total)
Urban population annual growth rate (%)
|Medium human development||25||42||54||4.0||4.0|
|87||Libyan Arab Jamahiriya||23||70||76||8.1||4.5|
|Low human development||16||28||34||4.2||4.5|
|125||São Tomé and Príncipe||-||33||-||-||-|
|138||Tanzania, U. Rep of||5||33||47||10.3||7.5|
|156||Central African Rep.||23||47||55||4.8||4.6|
|All developing countries||22||37||45||4.0||4.0|
|Least developed countries||8||20||26||5.3||5.8|
Source: UNDP (1993).
At the other end of the spectrum, countries with relatively high urbanization levels in 1960, including Egypt, Tunisia, South Africa, the Congo, and Equatorial Guinea, experienced modest urban growth rates of 3-4 per cent annually, apart from a mere 1.5 per cent in the last-mentioned. Even here, though, caution is needed, as South Africa's urban growth rate was systematically depressed by the notorious excesses of "influx control" and the pass laws, which persisted until 1986 under apartheid rule (see chap. 5). Since then, the rate of rural-urban migration has accelerated dramatically - although no accurate figures are available. Despite apartheid, however, it is no coincidence that South Africa has the highest urbanization level in SSA, because it is the continent's most industrialized and economically sophisticated country.
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