Experiencing the City in Sub-Saharan Africa

By Jean-Luc Piermay

Sub-Saharan Africa had few towns until the first half of the twentieth century, but for the last forty years it has had the highest urban growth rate in the world. Over and above the serious crises the continent has had to face, this major shift to urbanisation, which has occurred more or less rapidly from place to place, reflects the general and spectacular adoption of the town by African societies. Far from being the repository of poverty of all kinds, cities offer numerous opportunities for social strategies, especially for families, who also employ them elsewhere. The example of land tenure illustrates well the way cities work. The biggest problems are those of management, simply because needs are so great and resources are so modest. The challenge is tremendous not just for the State but for all those additional urban players who make an impact on the urban landscape today. Experiencing the town is an ongoing process, giving rise to a spirit of inventiveness, which holds out real promise despite huge difficulties.

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