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Kerwin Datu’s Review of Africa’s Urban Revolution Part 2

Africa's Urban RevolutionKerwin Datu has reviewed Africa’s Urban Revolution edited by Susan Parnell and Edgar Pieterse on The Global Urbanist. The book was the result of research by the African Centre for Cities.

The second part of Datu’s two part installment looks specifically at Sean Fox’s theory that urban transition is the result of demographic rather than economic change, and therefore cannot be impeded by economics.

Datu says that Fox’s new theory is provocative and brilliant, and could be used to better development policies in Africa.

The African Centre for Cities’ (ACC) new collection of essays Africa’s Urban Revolution (Zed Books) proposes a number of advances to both the policy and theory of Africa’s urbanisation experience in issues such as decentralisation, food security and armed conflict as the first part of this review learnt.

Two further chapters address an empirical problem that has always grated with economic geographers and which has very deep implications for all of the regulatory issues raised in the previous instalment. The massive urbanisation experienced in Western Europe, North America and East Asia as each of these regions underwent industrialisation in past centuries has cemented in place the theory that urbanisation is caused essentially by economic growth, that “growth begets urbanisation”. A major exception has been Sub-Saharan Africa, especially during the 1980s and 1990s, during which World Bank economists Marianne Fay and Charlotte Opal observed that “urbanisation continues even during periods of negative (economic growth)”, somehow continuing simply under its own momentum. In a sense, they argued at the time that: “urbanisation begets urbanisation”.

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