Funded by: Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei
January 2019 / December 2021

Urbanisation in Africa (UrbanAfrica)

The urban demography is changing significantly in developing countries under the pressure of the rural-urban migration. A substantial part of the urban growth of the next thirty years is projected to take place in Africa and Asia, but while the share of Asian urban population is expected to stabilise, that of African will grow steadily.

Based on the experience of the past decades, much of this growth will be concentrated in the capital and some second-tier cities. Although concentrated urbanisation creates opportunities through agglomeration economies and access to jobs and primary services, it also induces social problems related to waste management, water provision , access to sanitation and modern energy, and traffic congestion. The experience of other developing countries shows that, when structural changes in the economy do not follow the rapid urbanisation, this results in wide spatial expansion. This is coupled with the marginalisation of peripheries characterised by a low quality of life, sometimes even lower than in rural areas.

The project aims to investigate how alternative patterns of urban development with varying degrees of spatial concentration contribute to economic development, improvement of social conditions in marginalised areas, and increase of resilience to extreme climate events. Quantitative data analysis, spatially downscaled geographical analysis and articulated case studies will be used. The ultimate goal will be delivering clear-cut policy indications for sustainable planning in Africa.

Main Results and Outputs
  • Urban expansion and socio-economic growth in African countries.
    The project will look at the effects of urbanisation and urban concentration on the economic growth of countries and cities, as well as on social and environmental indicators. The aims is providing an estimate of the economic benefits and of the social and environmental costs of concentrated urbanisation in Africa. Comparing these costs and benefits of alternative urbanisation patterns may provide some guidance towards a better integration between economic, social and environmental performance of cities.
  • African metropolitan areas boundaries.
    In collaboration with other programs within FEEM, this initiative aims at providing a harmonised definition of city, including the commuting zones, where most marginalised areas often concentrate. The effort is expected to result in a database of SSA cities boundaries combined with detailed information on key urban topics such as land use, population, income generated, economic structure, and social conditions.
  • Resilient cities.
    The project is intended to collect the best practices adopted in African cities to respond to climate change for the purpose of testing their effectiveness within the urban context. Exploiting environmental or infrastructural shocks, the focus will be on assessing the different responses of cities to adjust to these changes. The approach will be to compare the different levels of economic and well-being changes after these extreme climate events and to isolate the determining factors for an effective strategy to resilience.
Project team
Project leader
Guastella Gianni
Senior Research Associate Read more

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