Addressing inequalities and building a local Africa leaving no one behind

An enabling environment for decentralization in Africa opens tremendous paths of opportunities to redress inequalities

Lab debate
Tuesday, June 18, 2019
10:00 to 11:15

If Africa is always at the head of all inequalities and disparities at territorial, regional, and local levels, while displaying multi-speed human development, it is time to take advantage of the tremendous windows of opportunities of decentralisation and territorial development. These processes in Africa are facing a multidimensional challenging environment at all levels that does not allow the anchoring of local autonomy, the emergence of attractive and competitive territories, and orientation towards resilient and sustainable development. This session will discuss how to create an enabling environment for local and regional governments in Africa to redress inequalities and to move towards a positive, inclusive, sustainable and resilient transformation that leaves no one behind.

Key points

  • Inequalities in Sub-Saharan Africa are most marked between urban and rural areas with young people and women suffering most.
  • One way to boost rural economies is to invest in small-scale enterprises, particularly those owned by women.
  • In North Africa, inequalities between regions and between regional cities and the capitals need to be addressed.
  • There are also inequalities within cities; authorities in Nairobi have taken innovative measures to integrate the urban poor into the local economy.


Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa has been spectacular in the last 20 years, with GDP in double figures. However, this growth has been uneven, with 34 % of the rural population, particularly women and youth, most affected by poverty, lacking basic facilities like water or electricity, while the urban population enjoys Western-style living. However, this urban/rural divide is not inevitable as many rural areas are rich in agriculture, growing tropical fruits and staples such as coffee or chocolate. One way to encourage young people to stay and to lift women out of poverty is to generate new forms of employment. This will also help integrate these zones into the wider economy. Governments are now investing in the local population, helping them to set up as small entrepreneurs, in turn encouraging larger industries to invest. Speakers noted that rural areas are always last in line for facilities such as hospitals or schools, forcing the population to migrate to towns. Instead, opening rural hospitals and more education colleges will serve the local population and generate employment. North African countries such as Morocco currently enjoy GDP growth of up to 4 %, but again this is spread unevenly, with remote regions lacking the investment enjoyed nearer the capital, Rabat. The lack of facilities and of decent infrastructure such as roads is driving young people to the big cities, draining these remote areas of future wealth-producing generations. A Moroccan town mayor suggested three approaches: Common ownership of land to open up more land to small farmers; fairer taxation for the regions, so those in less developed regions pay less than in big cities; and employment packages for state employees such as medical staff or teachers to encourage them to move to outlying regions. As well as inequality between regions, there are huge differences in some big cities. In the Kenyan capital Nairobi, a small elite of 15 % enjoy good facilities and services, while the remainder live in slums, eking out a living with few services and little chance of formal employment. Initially the authorities stigmatised the 85 % as criminals and a threat to urban order. Recently they have adopted a more enlightened approach, “harnessing the hassle”. They have introduced a City Urban Watch to improve security; created Street Parliaments to contribute to urban planning and legalised the informal economy.


In many Sub-Saharan countries, local chiefs oversee land ownership and have the power to decide who is can lease arable land. This approach needs to be modernised to encourage women’s agricultural enterprises.

Organised by


Abdelkrim Marzouk
Al Akhawayn University
Joseph Hyacinthe Owona Kono
Inota Cheta
Young Leader - Zambia
Aaron Atimpe
Young Leader - Ghana
Ghita Ait Ben Lmadani
Commune Ait Zdeg