Introduction Introduction Chapter 5 Chapter 5
Chapter 1 Chapter 1 Chapter 6 Chapter 6
Chapter 2 Chapter 2 Notes for Indicators Notes
Chapter 3 Chapter 3 Notes for boxes Notes for boxes
Chapter 4 Chapter 4 Indicators Indicators
CHAPTER 1 Printer Friendly printer friendly version
Chapter 1 The Promise of Urban Growth

This Iceberg Is Growing

Urbanization's Second Wave: A Difference of Scale

The Future of Urban Growth: Rates, Speed
and Size

Smaller Cities: Home to Half the Urban World

Different Speeds, Different Policies

Basing Policies on Facts, not Biases

Adegoke Taylor, a skinny, solemn thirty-two-year-old itinerant trader with anxious eyes, shares an eight-by-ten-foot room with three other young men, on an alley in Isale Eko several hundred feet from the Third Mainland Bridge. In 1999, Taylor came to Lagos from Ile-Oluji, a Yoruba town a hundred and thirty miles to the northeast. He had a degree in mining from a polytechnic school and the goal of establishing a professional career. Upon arriving in the city, he went to a club that played juju—pop music infused with Yoruba rhythms—and stayed out until two in the morning. “This experience alone makes me believe I have a new life living now,” he said, in English, the lingua franca of Lagos. “All the time, you see crowds everywhere. I was motivated by that. In the village, you’re not free at all, and whatever you’re going to do today you’ll do tomorrow.” Taylor soon found that none of the few mining positions being advertised in Lagos newspapers were open to him. “If you are not connected, it’s not easy, because there are many more applications than jobs,” he said. “The moment you don’t have a recognized person saying, ‘This is my boy, give him a job,’ it’s very hard. In this country, if you don’t belong to the elite”—he pronounced it “e-light”—“you will find things very, very hard.”

Taylor fell into a series of odd jobs: changing money, peddling stationery and hair plaits, and moving heavy loads in a warehouse for a daily wage of four hundred naira—about three dollars. Occasionally, he worked for West African traders who came to the markets near the port and needed middlemen to locate goods. At first, he stayed with the sister of a childhood friend in Mushin, then found cheap lodging there in a shared room for seven dollars a month, until the building was burned down during the ethnic riots. Taylor lost everything. He decided to move to Lagos Island, where he pays a higher rent, twenty dollars a month.

Taylor had tried to leave Africa but was turned down for a visa by the American and British Embassies. At times, he longed for the calm of his home town, but there was never any question of returning to Ile-Oluji, with its early nights and monotonous days and the prospect of a lifetime of manual labor. His future was in Lagos . . . .

“There’s no escape, except to make it,” Taylor said.(1)

This Iceberg is Growing

“The growth of cities will be the single largest influence on development in the 21st century.” These were the opening words of UNFPA’s 1996 State of World Population Report.(2) This statement is proving more accurate by the day.

Until now humankind has lived and worked primarily in rural areas. But the world is about to leave its rural past behind: By 2008, for the first time, more than half of the globe’s population, 3.3 billion people, will be living in towns and cities.(3)

The number and proportion of urban dwellers will continue to rise quickly. Urban population will grow to 4.9 billion by 2030. In comparison, the world’s rural population is expected to decrease by some 28 million between 2005 and 2030. At the global level, all future population growth will thus be in towns and cities.

Most of this growth will be in developing countries. The urban population of Africa and Asia is expected to double between 2000 and 2030. It will also continue to expand, but more slowly, in Latin America and the Caribbean. Meanwhile, the urban population of the developed world is expected to grow relatively little: from 870 million to 1.01 billion.

This vast urban expansion in developing countries has global implications. Cities are already the locus of nearly all major economic, social, demographic and environmental transformations. What happens in the cities of the less developed world in coming years will shape prospects for global economic growth, poverty alleviation, population stabilization, environmental sustainability and, ultimately, the exercise of human rights.

Yet surprisingly little is being done to maximize the potential benefits of this transformation or to reduce its harmful consequences. The International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) clearly recommended that: “Governments should strengthen their capacities to respond to the pressures caused by rapid urbanization by revising and reorienting the agencies and mechanisms for urban management as necessary and ensuring the wide participation of all population groups in planning and decision-making on local development.”(4)

This Report urges farsighted analysis and pre-emptive action to those purposes. The expected increases are too large, and the changes will happen too fast, to allow governments and planners simply to react.



a) Urban. Settlements or localities defined as "urban" by national statistical agencies.

b) Urbanization. The process of transition from a rural to a more urban society. Statistically, urbanization reflects an increasing proportion of the population living in settlements defined as urban, primarily through net rural to urban migration. The level of urbanization is the percentage of the total population living in towns and cities while the rate of urbanization is the rate at which it grows.

c) Urban growth. The increase in the number of people who live in towns and cities, measured either in relative or absolute terms.

d) Natural increase. The difference between the number of births and number of deaths in a given population.

e) The urban transition. The passage from a predominantly rural to a predominantly urban society.

An outstanding feature of urban population growth inthe 21st century is that it will be composed, to a large extent, of poor people.(5) Poor people often fall through the cracks of urban planning; migrants are rejected or simply ignored in the vain hope of deterring further migration.

Realistic planning for future urban growth calls for explicit consideration of the needs of the poor. It also requires gender analysis: The particular needs and capabilities of poor women and girls are often unaccounted for and assumed to be the same as those of poor men and boys. And, as population structures change, attention to youth and the needs of the elderly will become ever more important.

The present chapter describes some of the main trends in the urban transformation, some of the obstacles and some of the possibilities, as a starting point for discussion of a new approach.

Box 1 offers some definitions. Defining the basic terms “urban” and “rural” in a universal way has always been problematic.(6) As globalization advances, the division of human settlements into “rural” and “urban” can also be seen as increasingly artificial. Better transportation and communications bring cities, villages and farming areas ever closer. Rural areas come to look more like towns, while informality is transforming cities’ housing, services and workforces, and even production and consumption. But since mindsets, planning efforts and data are still compartmentalized, the rural-urban distinction is still necessary, although imprecise.

Countries have their own definitions, and the speed of urban growth itself continually changes city boundaries. However, the deficiencies of these data are less significant when analysing broad trends and prospects of urban growth at the world and regional levels, as will be done in this Report.