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