DAR-ES-SALAAM, A senior World Bank official in Africa has urged cities on the continent to improve their infrastructure to enable them develop along with their growing populations.

Bella Bird, the Bank’s Country Director for Tanzania, Malawi, Burundi and Somalia, who made the call here Tuesday at a training workshop for African journalists organized by the Bank, said as African cities were growing in population, there was a need to improve their infrastructure to fast-track development on the continent.

She quoted the 2016 World Bank Report as saying that Africa’s urban population stood at 472 million people. As a result of urbanization, more migrants were presently pushed to cities from the countryside and another 187 million people would be added to African cities by 2025.

This is the equivalent of adding another Nigeria to Africa’s population. Africa’s urban population will double over the next 25 years, reaching one billion people by 2040. Congestion and mobility problems affect the ability of people to connect to jobs, and firms to markets, she said,

Bird added that Tanzania was not the only country facing challenges of growing urban population and that many other African countries were being confronted with the same problems.

But in Tanzania, we are particularly pleased that the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, which we helped to develop and finance, is already bringing relief to city residents. In spite of some growing pains with the system, the project is popular and effective as the average round-trip travel time for commuters using BRT line has been reduced by 90 minutes a day.,” she said.

Bird added that such transformation infrastructure investments were important for cities to increase their productivity and generate jobs for the youths.

She also encouraged African countries to leverage on the private sector to finance and execute infrastructure projects as public financing was never enough to bridge the infrastructure gap.