Cities in Sub-Saharan Africa are experiencing rapid population growth. Yet their economic growth has not kept pace. Why? One factor might be low capital investment, due in part to Africa’s relative poverty: Other regions have reached similar stages of urbanization at higher per capita GDP.
This study, however, identifies a deeper reason: African cities are closed to the world. Compared with other developing cities, cities in Africa produce few goods and services for trade on regional and international markets To grow economically as they are growing in size, Africa’s cities must open their doors to the world. They need to specialize in manufacturing, along with other regionally and globally tradable goods and services. And to attract global investment in tradables production, cities must develop scale economies, which are associated with successful urban economic development in other regions. Such scale economies can arise in Africa, and they will—if city and country leaders make concerted efforts to bring agglomeration effects to urban areas.
This paper is part of the Research on Growth and Urbanisation in Low Income Countries programme
Lall, Somik Vinay; Henderson, J. Vernon; Venables, Anthony J. 2017. Africa’s Cities: Opening Doors to the World. Washington, DC: World Bank. © World Bank. https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/25896 License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.
Africa’s Cities: Opening Doors to the World