Funded by: Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei
January 2019 / December 2020

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. Climate change, through its effect on agricultural productivity and migration, has an important role in these patterns.

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 Urbanization in Africa aims to investigate how different patterns of urban development, characterized by varying degrees of spatial concentration, contribute to economic development, improvement of social conditions in marginalised areas, and increase of resilience to both climate change and extreme climate events using quantitative data analysis, spatially downscaled geographical analysis and articulated case studies. The ultimate goal is to deliver clear-cut policy indications for sustainable planning in Africa.

Lines of research 

  • Urban expansion and socio-economic growth
    The project looks at the effects of urbanisation and urban concentration on the economic growth, as well as on social and environmental indicators. The aim is to estimate the economic impacts and 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.
  • Resilient and circular cities
    This project is intended to collect the best practices adopted in African cities to promote sustainable consumption and production and to respond to environmental shocks, with the purpose of testing their effectiveness within the urban context. Exploiting environmental or infrastructural shocks, the focus is on assessing the different responses of cities to adjust to these changes.
  • Climate change, urban concentration and labour market effects
    In the last few years, empirical evidence has shed light on the effect of climate change on both migration and urbanization. The project aims to investigate if, and to what extent, increasing temperature and moisture changes have a causal impact on the spatial distribution and size of African cities. Another topic of interest concerns the effects of climate change on the local labour markets, with a particular focus on gender perspectives.

Project team
Project leader
Gianni Guastella
Senior Researcher Read more

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