The Sustainability of Urbanization in Africa’s Great Lakes Region: Trends and Policies Options

  • Remy Sietchiping
  • Claude Ngomsi
  • Michael Kinyanjui
  • John Omwamba
  • Elkin Velasquez
Part of the Advances in Geographical and Environmental Sciences book series (AGES)


Urban transition from 2014 to 2050 around the world would not be at the same rate and stage if the current situation remains constant. The 2014 United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs report underscores that East African countries are among the least urbanized and are most likely to keep their position in 2050. Urban population in the region is unevenly distributed between and within countries. For example, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, urban population is concentrated in the eastern territories close to the countries of the East African Community. This paper analyzes the conditions for sustainable urban transition in the East African Community within the Great Lakes region. Reviewing pertinent urban literature and recent urban policy and development discourses, the paper highlights the need for an effective and pragmatic political commitment at national level and fair engagement of private investors and individuals to create an enabling environment for urbanization that will be beneficial to the current and future generations. Developing and implementing national urban policy would be one of the clear indications for the commitment for managing urban transition in the region. In doing so, we identify some key entry points and quick wins such as the development of public spaces and efficient transportation network (railways, airways, and transnational road transportation). We further argue that to achieve sustainable urbanization in the region, there should be a clear, flexible monitoring framework between taxpayers and institutions for the formulation of urban development vision to ensure inclusive urban transition, incremental industrialization of economies with a focus on countries’ specialization (division of labor), and management of proactive social and environmental investments for the benefit of all.


African Great Lakes region Urban corridors Urban policy Conflicts Urban systems 


  1. Abbott J (2013) Green infrastructure for sustainable urban development in Africa. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  2. AfDB. (2013). State of Infrastructure in East Africa. In AD Bank (ed). TunisGoogle Scholar
  3. Alex Court (2015) What makes Nairobi Africa’s ‘most intelligent’ city. Market Place Africa. Retrieved 23/12/2015, 2015, from
  4. Ansoms A, Marysse S (2011) Natural resources and local livelihoods in the Great Lakes region: a political economy perspective. Palgrave Macmillan, BasingstokeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bakewell O, Bonfiglio A (2013) Moving beyond conflict: re-framing mobility in the African Great Lakes regionGoogle Scholar
  6. Beall J, Fox S (2011) Mitigating conflict and violence in Africa’s rapidly growing cities. Government Office for Science, LondonGoogle Scholar
  7. Beauchemin C, Bocquier PN (2003) Migration and urbanization in francophone west Africa a review of the recent empirical evidence: DIAL (Développement, Institutions et Mondialisation)Google Scholar
  8. Beauchemin C, Bocquier PN (2004) Migration and urbanisation in Francophone West Africa: an overview of the recent empirical evidence. Urban Stud 41(11):2245–2272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Drewello H, Scholl B (2015) Integrated spatial and transport infrastructure development: the case of the European North-South corridor Rotterdam-Genoa. Springer International Publishing, ChamGoogle Scholar
  10. Eric MMN, Shouyu C, li Qin Z (2010) Sustainable urbanization’s challenge in Democratic Republic of Congo. J Sustain Dev 3(2):p242Google Scholar
  11. Gozgor G, Kablamaci B (2015) What happened to urbanization in the globalization era? An empirical examination for poor emerging countries. Ann Reg Sci 55(2–3):533–553CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. InfoDev, World Bank, Hivos, Aid, U (2010) Transforming East African ICT sector by creating a business engine for SMEs. InfoDev, World Bank, Hivos & Aid, U., LondonGoogle Scholar
  13. Kinyeki JM (2006) Survival strategies among urban refugees in Nairobi. University of Nairobi, KenyaGoogle Scholar
  14. KPMG (2012) T he role of cities in Africas rise. In: K Africa (ed), pp 1–8Google Scholar
  15. Laipson EB, Pandya A (2010) On the move: migration challenges in the Indian Ocean Littoral. Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  16. Moir E, Moonen T, Clark G (2014) The future of cities: what is the global agenda? GoS Foresight Future of Cities, LondonGoogle Scholar
  17. Nyirenda-Jere T, Tesfaye B (2015) Internet development and Internet governance in Africa. Internet Society, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  18. Society for International Development (2012) The state of East Africa 2012: deepening integration, intensifying challenges. SID, NairobiGoogle Scholar
  19. Turok I (2010) The prospects for African urban economies. Urban Res Pract 3(1):12–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. UN DESA (2014) World urbanization prospects: the 2014 revision, highlights. United Nations. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  21. UN Habitat (2014) The state of African cities, 2014: re-imagining sustainable urban transitions. UN Habitat, NairobiGoogle Scholar
  22. UN Habitat, UNECA (2008) The state of African cities 2008: a framework for addressing urban challenges in Africa. UN-HABITAT, NairobiGoogle Scholar
  23. UNECA (2014) Sustainable urbanization in Africa. Paper presented at the Ecosoc Integration Segment 2014, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  24. United Nations (2013) World economic and social survey 2013: sustainable development challenges. UN, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. United Nations (2014) Investing in the Great Lakes Region: an investment opportunities brief. Paper presented at the international conference on the Great Lakes Region, Luanda. Working Document retrieved fromGoogle Scholar
  26. United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (2013) African central government debt 2013 statistical yearbook: statistical yearbook. OECD Publishing, ParisGoogle Scholar
  27. United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (2015) African central government debt 2014: statistical yearbook. OECD, ParisCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. UN-OHRLLS (2014) State of the least developed countries 2014 (L. D. C. a. S. I. D. S. United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Trans.). New YorkGoogle Scholar
  29. WFP (2013) Demographic Republic of Congo, Logistics Capacity Assessment (LCA) Northern Corridor’s Road Network’Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Remy Sietchiping
    • 1
  • Claude Ngomsi
    • 1
  • Michael Kinyanjui
    • 1
  • John Omwamba
    • 1
  • Elkin Velasquez
    • 2
  1. 1.UN HabitatNairobiKenya
  2. 2.Regional Office of UN-Habitat for Latin America and the CaribbeanUnited Nations HabitatRio de JaneiroBrazil

Personalised recommendations