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

Kurdish President: More Needed to Defeat Islamic State

In interview with VOA's Persian Service, Massoud Barzani says peshmerga forces have not received weapons, logistical support needed to successfully fight IS in northern Iraq More

Sierra Leone's Stray Dog Population Doubles During Ebola Crisis

Many dog owners fear their pets could infect them with the virus and have abandoned them, leading to the increase and sparking fears of rabies More

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

New methods for mapping pain in the brain not only validate sufferers of chronic pain but might someday also lead to better treatment 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.
New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Paini
X
Shelley Schlender
April 20, 2015 7:03 PM
Pain has a purpose - it can stop you from touching a flame or from walking on a broken leg. As an injury heals, the pain goes away. Usually. But worldwide, one out of every five people suffers from pain that lasts for months and years, leading to lost jobs, depression, and rising despair when medical interventions fail or health experts hint that a pain sufferer is making it up. From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Italy Rescues Migrants After Separate Deadly Capsize Incident

Italy continued its massive search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean Monday for the capsized boat off the coast of Libya that was carrying hundreds of migrants, while at the same time rescuing Syrian migrants from another vessel off the coast of Sicily. Thirteen children were among the 98 Syrian migrants whose boat originated from Turkey on the perilous journey to Europe.
Video

Video New Test Set to Be Game Changer in Eradicating Malaria

The World Health Organization estimates 3.4 billion people are at risk of malaria, with children under the age of five and pregnant women being the most vulnerable. As World Malaria Day approaches (April 25), mortality rates are falling, and a new test -- well into the last stage of trials -- is having positive results in Kenya. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA from Nairobi.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.

VOA Blogs