The Development of the African System of Cities

Posted: 7 Sep 2018

See all articles by J. Vernon Henderson

J. Vernon Henderson

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Sebastian Kriticos

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - London School of Economics

Date Written: August 2018

Abstract

Sub-Saharan Africa has experienced high urban population growth over the past half century, dramatically reshaping the economic and spatial profile of the region. Simultaneously, this process has challenged the conventional view that countries urbanize alongside structural transformation, as urbanization in Africa has occurred despite low productivity gains in agriculture and very limited industrialization. While there are large household income gaps between urban and rural areas that induce migration, most cities have very high agricultural employment, blurring the connection between structural transformation and urbanization. Urban income premiums apply equally to farm and nonfarm families. Looking across the urban hierarchy, we discuss how high urban primacy presents problems for economic growth in Africa, how secondary cities are faltering with a lack of industrialization, and how growth of employment in tradable services may signal a different path to structural transformation.

Suggested Citation

Henderson, J. Vernon and Kriticos, Sebastian, The Development of the African System of Cities (August 2018). Annual Review of Economics, Vol. 10, pp. 287-314, 2018. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3245098 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-economics-080217-053207

J. Vernon Henderson (Contact Author)

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) ( email )

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Sebastian Kriticos

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - London School of Economics

United Kingdom

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