The Development of the African System of Cities
Posted: 7 Sep 2018
Date Written: August 2018
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.
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