Mapping urbanization in West Africa

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    Mapping urbanization in West Africa


    Co-Principal Investigators at UF: Visiting Associate Professor Olivier J. Walther (lead researcher) and Professor Leonardo A. Villalón. Lead at OECD: Dr. Marie Trémolières.

    Population dynamics and urbanization will continue to figure among the major transformations affecting West Africa. Between 2015 and 2040, the population of West Africa will double and cities will absorb most of this demographic growth. There is a continuous need to understand urbanization, including the urban network and the regional economy; relations and interactions between cities and rural areas; and the impact of urbanization on gender and access to social services.

    One of the key features of the West African urban network is that it is cross‑border in nature. Close to one-fifth of its urban population lives less than 50 kilometers from a land border. In 2015, these urban border populations consisted of more than 27 million people living in 681 cities of quite diverse size and significance. Recent research by the OECD shows for example that border cities have experienced higher rates of growth than other cities in the region and specialize in commercial activities that stimulate growth and foster higher densities.

    The University of Florida Sahel Research Group will contribute towards the flagship report “Atlas on Cities in Africa” published by the OECD Sahel and West Africa Club in 2020. The main objective of the Atlas is to analyze urban transformations and integrate their economic, social and territorial impacts into public policies and the development agenda.

    This project is funded as part of the 2019-2020 OECD Sahel and West Africa Club (SWAC) analytical work on “Cities, People and Mobility”. It builds on a 2017 memorandum of understanding between the University of Florida and the OECD. This project extends the Borders and Cities program funded by the OECD from 2017-18, whose objective was to describe the specificities of border cities at the local, national and international levels in West Africa.

    Related work
    – OECD/SWAC (2014), An Atlas of the Sahara-Sahel: Geography, Economics and Security, West African Studies, OECD Publishing, Paris (read).
    – OECD/SWAC (2018), “Cities: Density, distance, division and regional integration”, West African Papers 20, OECD Publishing, Paris.
    – OECD/SWAC (2018), “Cities: Population and morphology of border cities”, West African Papers 21, OECD Publishing, Paris.
    – OECD/SWAC (2018), “Cities: Business and health in border cities”, West African Papers 22 , OECD Publishing, Paris.
    – OECD/SWAC (2018), “Cities: Accessibility and infrastructure in border cities”, West African Papers 23, OECD Publishing, Paris.
    – OECD/SWAC (2019), Africapolis, OECD Publishing, Paris.