On December 23, 2012 (ERF) held a workshop on The Challenge of Urbanization in the ERF Region. The workshop is part of 12th Round of the Regional Research Competition supported by the Global Development Network (GDN).
Rapid urbanization creates many challenges for developing countries including rising poverty, unemployment and investment needs for expanding infrastructure.
According to UN projections the MENA population will reach 430 million by 2020, of which 280 million are expected to be urban. That is an urban population increase of over 65%, compared to the projected rural population increase of 8.5% (World Bank).
Against this very high rate of urbanization, the provision of adequate infrastructure and public services is clearly the key urban challenge. This is all the more challenging given the accumulation of un-serviced and underserviced populations and the increasing pressure on the fragile environment from urbanization.
Accordingly, ERF launched a call for proposals under the theme of The Challenge of Urbanization in the ERF Region. In response to the call for papers, ERF received 11 proposals, 6 of which have been peer reviewed and selected.
The selected projects covered various sectors (telecom, electricity, water and civil aviation), and countries (Egypt, Palestine and Turkey) as well as other countries from the region. Key issues centered around the relationship between urbanization and infrastructure. Among the research was a paper titled Urban Concentration, Poverty and Infrastructure by Khalid Sekkat, examining the effect of urban concentration on poverty. “Urban concentration, defined as agglomeration of population in large cities, and poverty are two prominent characteristics of many developing countries in the MENA region. Both represent serious challenges for the development process,” noted Sekkat during his presentation.
Six discussion papers were presented to over 30 participants, including prominent scholars, policymakers, and media representatives. The workshop was organized in three parallel sessions, one for each theme.