News / Africa

Urbanization Helps Curb Poverty, Says World Bank

A healthcare worker tends to orphans in Marrakech, Morocco. The country is making substantial progress in improving childhood and maternal health, a UN Millennium Development Goal. (World Bank)
A healthcare worker tends to orphans in Marrakech, Morocco. The country is making substantial progress in improving childhood and maternal health, a UN Millennium Development Goal. (World Bank)
William Eagle
The U.N.’s ambitious global effort – the Millennium Development Goals – ends in two years. The program was designed to curb poverty and promote education, health and gender equality. The World Bank says many of the countries that have made the most progress so far have an important factor working in their favor: urbanization. The conclusion was part of the bank’s recent Global Monitoring Report 2013.
 
It says countries and regions with a high rate of urbanization lead in the effort to reach their Millennium Development Goals (or MDGs). For example, countries with large population centers in East Asia, like China, have made significant progress in reducing poverty.
 
Lagging behind is sub-Saharan Africa, where about 70 percent of the population still lives in rural areas.
 
Figures reflect the disparity between cities and the countryside: The World Bank says urban infant mortality rates are up to nine percentage points lower than rural areas in Central Asia and Latin America. By comparison, the gap is as wide as 21 percent in sub-Saharan Africa.
 
A World Bank graphic shows differences in service delivery between urban and rural areas (World Bank 2013)A World Bank graphic shows differences in service delivery between urban and rural areas (World Bank 2013)
x
A World Bank graphic shows differences in service delivery between urban and rural areas (World Bank 2013)
A World Bank graphic shows differences in service delivery between urban and rural areas (World Bank 2013)
​Jos Verbeek, the lead economist of the Global Monitoring Report 2013, says there are many reasons why urban areas are quicker to make social progress.
 
"[Cities]," he says, "are centers of economic activity, growth and job creation; consequently, poverty is significantly lower in urban centers than in rural areas."

For example, globally poverty in rural areas stands at about 29.5 percent, while it’s only 11.5 percent in urban areas. In Africa, rural poverty is about 47 percent versus 33 percent in urban areas.
 
He says urban areas are also better at service delivery…. For example, access to sanitation [such as toilets] is about 80 percent in urban areas and about 50 percent in rural ones. In Africa, about 40 percent of the population in urban areas have access to a toilet, while only half that amount have access in rural areas.
 
Verbeek says cities also benefit from greater density, or economies of scale, which makes it easier to extend social services like health,  education, electricity and water.
 
For example, he says it’s cheaper to extend pipes for water and sanitation from the city network to new settlements on the periphery than it is to run pipes tens or hundreds of kilometers to rural areas.  
 
While urbanization can greatly facilitate economic and social progress, Verbeek warns that unchecked city growth can quickly lead to slums. He says governments should use urban planning, including policies that increase the transparency of buying and selling land.
 
"If you are not property registered as a citizen of an urban area, " he says, "you often don’t have access to government services. You might get turned away at a public health clinic in an urban area because you cannot prove residency, and that is a big issue for many people who end up in slums."
 
"The other is thing," he continued, "is uncertainly about where you are living. If there is uncertainty [over land ownership], then public providers will not come in and extend water pipes into the slums –  because no one knows for sure if the slums will still be there a year from now. Government might [decide to] empty them out, which in certain countries has happened in the past.

Shanty-town on the Saigon River; with downtown Saigon in the background. Urban planning aims to minimize slums caused by rural migration.(World Bank)Shanty-town on the Saigon River; with downtown Saigon in the background. Urban planning aims to minimize slums caused by rural migration.(World Bank)
x
Shanty-town on the Saigon River; with downtown Saigon in the background. Urban planning aims to minimize slums caused by rural migration.(World Bank)
Shanty-town on the Saigon River; with downtown Saigon in the background. Urban planning aims to minimize slums caused by rural migration.(World Bank)
​In both cities and rural areas, a major factor in improving health and social services is financing.  World Bank officials encourage countries with oil and minerals to use revenues from those resources to finance health and education systems. 
 
At the recent World Bank and IMF Spring meetings, African policymakers debated how best to fund social services. Some favored greater state support and financing of health and education systems, while others preferred a combination of public and private financing.
 
Uganda’s minister of finance,  Maria Kiwanuka, explains her government’s policy:
 
"We have a finite resource of oil," she says, "We are not Nigeria, or Venezuela and certainly not Saudi Arabia. So our oil will run for a certain amount of time and then run out. Then what? We must make sure our investments are sustainable and increasing so we can pay an increasing amount of our share of the health and education budget. Our budget for health has been growing ever year. If we use the oil for health immunizations, medicines and salaries, then what about next year and the year after?"
 
Kiwanuka says the Ugandan government spends up to 10 percent of its budget on health and up to 15 percent on education.  She says it prefers to spend its oil revenues on improving irrigation, electricity and other infrastructure in rural areas. She says that will allow rural people to make more money and contribute to the health care system. 
 
She says there are trade-offs.
 
"So for health," she says, "we’ve said rather than emphasizing quick access to health care – let’s say a health unit within 15 minutes of every habitation – we’ve said, what if you have to walk a little bit longer, but then when you get to that health care center, it’s actually stocked with drugs and health personnel to look after you, rather than have clinic around the corner that doesn’t have any supplies?"
 
Kiwanuka says people are willing to pay to go to traditional doctors and herbalists because they believe in them. She says if they have faith in the government health care system, they should be willing to pay for its services as well.
 
Jos Verbeek says there are many different ways to fund health and social services and curb poverty. The important thing, he says, is that resources be available – either directly or indirectly – to improve the health and education of rural people.  He says it will help improve their job skills and make their transition easier, if they decide to migrate to a city. 

Listen to report on urbanization and development
Listen to report on urbanization and development.i
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

You May Like

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Andrés from: Colombia
April 30, 2013 10:29 AM
Everything he says the report is reasonable and logical, but the problem is that I do not believe the World Bank, an institution that since its inception has become a weapon of domination to extract resources at no cost. now clear that if will be efficient and diligent as the BRICs want to start their own development bank.
http://arrendamientosvillacruz.com.co/site/servicios.html

by: paul from: india
April 25, 2013 4:01 AM
god bless in world bank. i like world bank helps. thanks by rural child development trust. www.rcdtrust.com

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs