In order to understand how African cities function, they should be considered from
a political, social, economic, cultural and geographical perspective. Most of the
cities that serve as African countries’ capitals today were established in colonial
times, for example, Harare (Salisbury in Zimbabwe), Lusaka in Zambia, Tripoli in
Libya, and Pretoria in the Republic of South Africa. They were created to serve the
political aims of that era – to govern colonial territories and provide avenues to
export raw materials. Because many African cities were not originally established
by indigenous communities, if the future of African cities, including South African
cities, is considered, attention should be paid to the artificial nature of their initial
geographical locations, demography and construction.
Cities need a vibrant economy to survive and prosper. Africa’s economy in general
is less robust than that of most European cities, partly due to unstable political
regimes, poverty and predation by the politicians in power, rather than due to a
lack of natural resources. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Sudan
(North and South) are blessed with some of the richest oil fields in Africa. Countries
such as Zimbabwe, Zambia, Angola and Mozambique have the most fertile soil for
agricultural production. Botswana has some of the world’s largest diamond deposits.
However, these countries, and by implication, their cities, are characterised by large
numbers of indigent people, unable to access basic services due to their inability to
pay for services. This untenable situation is exacerbated by large numbers of refugees
residing in or adjacent to cities on a temporary, but long-term basis.
The question to be considered is what governmental, administrative and
managerial actions are required to promote the development of African cities to
meet the political, social and basic service needs of African people? The methodology involved extensive research into the economic, governmental
and administrative situation in selected African countries, by reviewing selected
contemporary sources, such as the World Bank’s Annual Report for 2013, Africa i2012, released by Consulting Africa Intelligence in 2012, and African Union
Summits in 2013: Africa’s second transition. These are supplemented by supporting
documents on administrative arrangements and local government structures to
establish whether (South) African cities can meet contemporary urban requirements.