Urbanization and the New Urban Agenda

Urbanization and the New Urban Agenda

Recently Transparency International Zimbabwe took part at the World Bank Conference and had the opportunity to present a paper on Land Corruption and the New Urban Agenda using Harare and Johannesburg as case studies.

Issues that emerged during the conference highlighted that urbanization remains one of the topical policy concerns faced by the global South. Statistics on urbanization seem to indicate that Africa is urbanizing fast. Africa‘s rate of urbanization soared from 15 percent in 1960 to 40 percent in 2010, and is projected to reach 60 percent in 2050 (UN Habitat 2010). This data shows that Africa and Sub Saharan Africa are faced with a huge policy problem, that of urbanization. It is within this context that the New Urban Agenda (NUA) and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 become key and critical. The NUA and SDG 11 can be summed up as global policy responses that make an attempt to provide lasting solutions and parameters to address the problem of urbanization and the problems that comes along with it.

Against a backdrop of urban sprawl (mushrooming of informal settlements and slums and dwindling housing infrastructure) and urban air pollution, the SDG 11 proposes the need to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. The NUA goes beyond SDG 11 and focuses on what needs to be done to ensure that cities and human settlements are more inclusive, well planned, developed, managed in sustainable ways and can be vehicles for development.


In essence NUA recognizes that sustainable human settlements can only be achieved through decentralized, accountable, citizen driven and financially secure local authorities. Although the NUA is noble, its attainment is confronted with a key structural reality that is deeply embedded in urban land governance and political systems of most countries in the global south and that is land corruption.

Empirical evidence shows that;

  • In Zimbabwe, urban land has become a tool for political patronage used by the ruling elite to ensure reproduction of political power, amidst a growing population of urban dwellers. Urbanization, city planning and land use policies in the Zimbabwean case study is dictated by politics instead of the more natural and technical issues
  • Using their political muscle, political actors have crafted policies that have allowed them to alter the city political configuration and map. This has resulted in the mushrooming of several unplanned urban settlements (Caledonia, Arlington, extension of Epworth) in violation to the key principles of the New Urban Agenda and SDG 11.


TIZ is of the view that fighting corruption is thus a major policy initiative within the New Urban Agenda. Corruption, if not combated has the potential to railroad any progress towards agreed goals. We therefore call upon all the key stakeholders pushing forward the NUA and SDG 11 to invest time and resources in anti-corruption policy advocacy on land corruption for the better attainment of the NUA and SDG 11.