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

Russian Help on Iran Less Promising on Syria, Ukraine

US-Russian collaboration to secure a deal on Iran's nuclear program has raised hopes of closer cooperation on other world issues More

Video US: Millions Exploited by Vast Fortunes of Human Trafficking

State Department's annual report calls exploitation 'modern slavery,' brutalizing girls, women into prostitution and forcing men, women and children into low-wage jobs across the globe More

US-Ethiopia Relationship Strong, But Complicated

While Ethiopia serves as a valuable security ally and a bulwark against terrorism - the U.S., is a major aid donor and economic stimulator 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.
Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backersi
X
Michael Bowman
July 26, 2015 8:44 PM
Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Underground Streetcar Station In Washington, DC, 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 Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
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 California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
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.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Rise in HIV Infections Worries Ugandan Officials

Uganda had the third-highest number of new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa last year, reversing its reputation for successfully tackling the epidemic in the 1990s. Although the percentage of people living with HIV/AIDS is still half of what it was in the 1980s, the increase in new infections is worrying to health workers. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs