The Urban Transition in Sub-Saharan Africa: Implications for Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction


This paper challenges several common myths that cloud discourse about urban development in Africa. It finds that urbanization in the region is not excessive or imbalanced relative to the experience of other regions. Internal migration, which is not the main source of urban growth, does not account for urban poverty. Migration appears favorable on balance for sending and receiving areas, and population mobility benefits rural and urban households as many retain a foothold in both areas to spread risks. Although Africa has been frequently described as featuring a disconnect between urbanization and economic growth, in reality most of the economic growth that has taken place in the past decade derives from mainly urban-based sectors (industry and services), and this is especially true of the better-performing economies. But cities have clearly not lived up to their productive potential because of widespread neglect and bad management. Urban poverty is not mainly a function of urban expansion, nor is it a sign of failure of the urban economies in Africa. There is evidence that much of the deprivation in cities, and the emerging urban public health problems, relate to institutional failures that perpetuate social exclusion and inequalities between the urban poor and the urban non-poor.

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Publication Type report
Publisher Cities Alliance
Year 2005
Author(s) Kessides, Christine
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