Africa’s Cities: Opening Doors to the World


Urbanisation is a source of dynamism that can enhance productivity and increase economic integration, says a new World Bank report, Africa’s Cities: Opening Doors to the World, released February 9, 2017.

The report argues that, if well managed, cities can help countries accelerate growth and “open the doors” to global markets in two ways: by creating productive environments that attract international investment and increase economic efficiency, and by creating livable environments that prevent urban costs from rising excessively with increased densification. By generating agglomeration economies, cities can enhance productivity and spur innovation and national economic diversification.

Key recommendations include:

Reform urban land markets (simplify property rights, strengthen city plans). Over the next 20 years, growth in Africa’s urban populations will increase new demand for infrastructure, for housing and other physical structures, and for amenities. To meet this new demand, city leaders and planners must use adaptable strategies. Plans and regulations should allow the best use of land—but they should also permit uses, and users, to change over time, as demand evolves further. Three key considerations will be how to handle land and property rights; how to value land and manage land prices; and land use and urban planning.

Coordinate early infrastructure investments. Cities must improve the institutional and the physical and infrastructural structures, making them more livable and affordable for people and more attractive to business.

Africa’s Cities: Opening Doors to the World, by Somik V. Lall, J. Vernon Henderson, and Anthony J. Venables, is the flagship report of the Spatial Development of African Cities research funded by the Multi-Donor Trust Fund for Sustainable Urbanization (MDTF SUD).


Knowledge Type