The new World Bank-DFID partnership will provide data, diagnostics, and technical assistance for four African partner cities to help them identify constraints inhibiting growth and undertake policy reforms.


Since 2014, the World Bank has been collaborating closely with leading global and regional research institutions on urbanization issues through an ambitious global research partnership program funded by the Multi-donor Trust Fund for Sustainable Urban Development (MDTF SUD).


Through this partnership program, the World Bank has leveraged its convening power, analytic capacities and links to national policymakers and investment programs to improve data, analysis and application of urban research. The program is supporting Urbanization Reviews, spatial development data, global urban data, as well as a variety of thematic analysis.


Now, a new partnership supported by the MDTF SUD and the UK Department of International Development will focus on an urgent issue for African cities: economic performance.

African cities typically face high unemployment rates as job creation struggles to keep up with urbanization and population growth. In Addis Ababa, one in every four people is unemployed.

One major problem is a lack of information. While data is available on the sectoral structure of employment, there is little information on the international competitiveness of those sectors or the constraints and market failures that affect their performance. The lack of data is especially glaring for the informal sector, even though it is a large part of the economy of many African cities.
Without having an accurate picture of the prominent sectors within the city economy or of the specific constraints that affect them, it is very difficult for policy makers to design interventions that can make a difference.


In this context, the new Economic Performance of African Cities program aims to provide insights to local stakeholders on the nature of the local economy in four partner cities –  starting with Addis Ababa and Kampala – and support them in planning policy reforms and investments to alleviate the market failures currently inhibiting job creation and per capita income growth prospects.


The program will focus on:

  1. City level analyses and diagnostics needed by local policy makers, particularly on the constraints and market failures preventing firm-level expansion and value upgrading in prominent sectors.
  2. Supporting city stakeholders in developing or improving their economic development strategies, based on sound analytics and evidence.
  3. Supporting city administrations in planning and implementing specific policy reforms or projects that will alleviate some of the market failures affecting the performance of firms within the city.
  4. Providing institutional and skills development support for city administrations so they can play their role in enhancing the economic performance of their cities more effectively.


The new Economic Performance of African Cities program will build on work being undertaken by the Spatial Development of African Cities program, another research partnership supported by the MDTF SUD that aims to understand the spatial evolution of cities in Africa. This work includes research papers, a spatial development database that is under construction, and research that focuses on the evolution of GDP growth in African cities, using night lights data to estimate growth.