The Morphology of African Cities

51 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2016

Date Written: December 9, 2016


This paper illustrates how the capabilities of GIS and satellite imagery can be harnessed to explore and better understand the urban form of several large African cities (Addis Ababa, Nairobi, Kigali, Dar es Salaam, and Dakar). To allow for comparability across very diverse cities, this work looks at the above mentioned cities through the lens of several spatial indicators and relies heavily on data derived from satellite imagery. First, it focuses on understanding the distribution of population across the city, and more specifically how the variations in population density could be linked to transportation. Second, it takes a closer look at the land cover in each city using a semi-automated texture based land cover classification that identifies neighborhoods that appear more regular or irregularly planned. Lastly, for the higher resolution images, this work studies the changes in the land cover classes as one moves from the city core to the periphery. This work also explored the classification of slightly coarser resolution imagery which allowed analysis of a broader number of cities, sixteen, provided the lower cost.

Keywords: Urban Governance and Management, National Urban Development Policies & Strategies, Urban Partnerships & Poverty, Regional Urban Development, Urban Housing and Land Settlements, Geographical Information Systems, City to City Alliances, Urban Economics, Urban Communities, ICT Applications, Land Information Systems, Peri-Urban Communities, Municipal Management and Reform, Earth Sciences & GIS, Urban Economic Development, Urban Housing

Suggested Citation

Antos, Sarah Elizabeth and Lall, Somik V. and Lozano-Gracia, Nancy, The Morphology of African Cities (December 9, 2016). World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 7911, Available at SSRN:

Somik V. Lall

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20433
United States


Nancy Lozano-Gracia

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433
United States

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