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Unleashing the transformative potential of urbanization through national development planning - WUF10 (8-13 February 2020, Abu Dhabi, UAE)
12 Feb 2020 -  National development planning is a critical instrument for accelerating growth and realizing the structural transformation of low-income countries, especially as illustrated by the experience of East Asian countries in recent decades. In Africa, there has been a resurgence in national development planning, with governments recognizing the need to plan strategically in order to align resources and policy efforts towards achieving their development goals within the framework of a structural transformation agenda. By defining the national vision and priorities, and shaping investment and budgetary allocation, the national development plan is a principal policy framework guiding economic growth in 44 African countries. However, the extent and manner in which urbanization has been reflected in national development planning has been inadequate. So far, urbanization has largely being reflected in national development planning through a narrow focus and not strategic and cross-cutting (housing, informality, land etc.); largely in relation to poverty and informality, not economic opportunities of urbanization; with limited, or no, links to economic sector targeting for urban job creation or other key national priorities of industrialization, agricultural transformation, domestic revenues; as well as limited prioritization of urban economic productivity (even where the population is 50 per cent urban or beyond and cities drive GDP growth). If urbanization is not mainstreamed and prioritized in national development planning, the ability for cities to play a central role in economic development and structural transformation is constrained. National development plans are uniquely suited to define urban priorities linked to national targets for growth. While sector policies, subnational development strategies and national urban policies can address urban issues and can play a role in implementing the vision of the national development plan, the national development plan is the main policy framework that can align economic and spatial planning under a common vision. Drawing on experiences from Africa and Asia, this event elaborates and introduces innovative approaches in national development planning to unleash the potential of cities to drive growth and transformation. Rather seeing urbanization as a “sector”, the growth of cities is viewed as a necessary pathway to structural transformation and economic development. In so doing, the event introduces new thinking of the role of cities in driving growth, but also how to prioritize this through macro level planning and investments. So far, the evidence has shown that planning and investments within the urban sector alone can not transform urbanization into an engine of growth.