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Challenging the Myths of Urban Dynamics in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Evidence from Nigeria


  • Potts, Deborah


The evidence from censuses and satellite imagery is increasing that the rate at which many countries are becoming more urban in sub-Saharan Africa has slowed or is even stagnating. This has major policy implications. Many standard reviews of the region still, however, tend to maintain that urbanization is occurring rapidly but, as this paper demonstrates, the data used are frequently erroneous. Such errors are exacerbated by a lack of reasonable estimates of the size and growth of towns in Nigeria, sub-Saharan Africa’s most populous country with the region’s most complex urban system. This paper also attempts to address this knowledge gap and shows how Nigeria’s level of urbanization has also been significantly over-estimated.

Suggested Citation

  • Potts, Deborah, 2012. "Challenging the Myths of Urban Dynamics in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Evidence from Nigeria," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 40(7), pages 1382-1393.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:wdevel:v:40:y:2012:i:7:p:1382-1393
    DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2011.12.004

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Tiffen, Mary, 2003. "Transition in Sub-Saharan Africa: Agriculture, Urbanization and Income Growth," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 31(8), pages 1343-1366, August.
    2. Cris Beauchemin & Philippe Bocquier, 2003. "Migration and urbanization in francophone west Africa a review of the recent empirical evidence," Working Papers DT/2003/09, DIAL (Développement, Institutions et Mondialisation).
    3. Gugler, Josef, 1991. "Life in a dual system revisited: Urban-rural ties in Enugu, Nigeria, 1961-87," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 19(5), pages 399-409, May.
    4. Philippe Bocquier, 2005. "World Urbanization Prospects," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 12(9), pages 197-236, May.
    5. Satterthwaite, David, 2010. "Urban Myths and the Mis-use of Data that Underpin them," WIDER Working Paper Series 028, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    6. Cohen, Barney, 2004. "Urban Growth in Developing Countries: A Review of Current Trends and a Caution Regarding Existing Forecasts," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 23-51, January.
    7. Martin Brockerhoff, 1999. "Urban Growth in Developing Countries: A Review of Projections and Predictions," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 25(4), pages 757-778.
    8. Fay, Marianne & Opal, Charlotte, 2000. "Urbanization without growth : a not-so-uncommon phenomenon," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2412, The World Bank.
    9. repec:dau:papers:123456789/4536 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Mohamed El Hedi Arouri & Adel Ben Youssef & Cuong Nguyen-Viet & Agnès Soucat, 2014. "Effects of urbanization on economic growth and human capital formation in Africa," Working Papers halshs-01068271, HAL.
    2. Zaneta Kubik, 2017. "Climatic variation as a determinant of rural-to-rural migration destination choice:Evidence from Tanzania," Documents de travail du Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne 17037, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1), Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne.
    3. Fox, Sean, 2014. "The Political Economy of Slums: Theory and Evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 191-203.
    4. Hazell, Peter B.R., 2012. "Elmhirst Lecture, 27th International Conference of Agricultural Economists, Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil August 2012 : Options for African Agriculture in an Era of High Food and Energy Prices," 2012 Conference, August 18-24, 2012, Foz do Iguacu, Brazil 127070, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
    5. repec:eee:wdevel:v:97:y:2017:i:c:p:67-78 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Jedwab, Remi & Vollrath, Dietrich, 2015. "Urbanization without growth in historical perspective," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 1-21.
    7. Zoomers, Annelies & van Noorloos, Femke & Otsuki, Kei & Steel, Griet & van Westen, Guus, 2017. "The Rush for Land in an Urbanizing World: From Land Grabbing Toward Developing Safe, Resilient, and Sustainable Cities and Landscapes," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 242-252.
    8. Zaneta Kubik, 2017. "Climatic variation as a determinant of rural-to-rural migration destination choice: Evidence from Tanzania," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) halshs-01599362, HAL.
    9. Nagler, Paula & Naudé, Wim, 2014. "Young Entrepreneurs in Rural Africa: Prevalence, Determinants, Productivity," IZA Discussion Papers 8564, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    10. Hirvonen, Kalle & Lilleør, Helene Bie, 2015. "Going Back Home: Internal Return Migration in Rural Tanzania," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 186-202.


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