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Understanding the origins and pace of Africa’s urban transition

Listed author(s):
  • Fox, Sean
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    In this paper the author argues that urbanisation should be understood as a global historical process driven primarily by population dynamics stimulated by technological and institutional change. In particular, disease control and expanded access to surplus energy supplies are necessary and sufficient conditions for urbanisation to occur given historical evidence of an inherent human propensity to agglomerate. Economic development, which has traditionally been viewed as the primary driving force behind urbanisation, can accelerate the process but is not a necessary condition for it to occur. Informed by this historically-grounded theory of urbanisation, a range of qualitative and quantitative evidence is used to explain the stylised facts of sub-Saharan Africa's urban transition, namely the late onset of urbanisation in Africa vis-a-vis other major world regions, the widely noted but inadequately explained phenomenon of 'urbanisation without growth' observed in Africa in the 1980s and 1990s, and the historically unprecedented rates of urban population growth seen in the region throughout the late twentieth century.

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    File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/41856/
    File Function: Open access version.
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    Paper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library in its series LSE Research Online Documents on Economics with number 41856.

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    Length: 32 pages
    Date of creation: Sep 2011
    Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:41856
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    Web page: http://www.lse.ac.uk/

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    1. Barrios, Salvador & Bertinelli, Luisito & Strobl, Eric, 2006. "Climatic change and rural-urban migration: The case of sub-Saharan Africa," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(3), pages 357-371, November.
    2. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1369-1401, December.
    3. Bhattacharya, Prabir C, 1993. " Rural-Urban Migration in Economic Development," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 7(3), pages 243-281, September.
    4. Tim Dyson, 2003. "HIV/AIDS and Urbanization," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 29(3), pages 427-442.
    5. Granger, C W J, 1969. "Investigating Causal Relations by Econometric Models and Cross-Spectral Methods," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 37(3), pages 424-438, July.
    6. Harris, John R & Todaro, Michael P, 1970. "Migration, Unemployment & Development: A Two-Sector Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 60(1), pages 126-142, March.
    7. Fay, Marianne & Opal, Charlotte, 2000. "Urbanization without growth : a not-so-uncommon phenomenon," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2412, The World Bank.
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