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Is urbanization in Sub-Saharan Africa different ?

Listed author(s):
  • Henderson, J. Vernon
  • Roberts, Mark
  • Storeygard, Adam

In the past dozen years, a literature has developed arguing that urbanization has unfolded differently in post-independence Sub-Saharan Africa than in the rest of the developing world, with implications for African economic growth overall. While African countries are more urbanized than other countries at comparable levels of income, it is well-recognized that total and sector gross domestic product data are of very low quality, especially in Africa. When instead viewed from the perspective of effective technology, as suggested in endogenous growth frameworks (and as proxied by educational attainment), the African urbanization experience overall matches global patterns. There are differences, however, at the sector level. Agricultural trade effects that improve farm prices deter African urbanization, while they promote urbanization elsewhere. Potential reasons include differences in land ownership institutions and the likelihood of agricultural surpluses being invested in urban production. Positive shocks to modern manufacturing spur urbanization in the rest of the developing world, but effects are dependent on the level of development. Thus many countries in Africa, with their lower level of development, do not respond to these shocks. Finally, historical indicators of the potential for good institutions promote urbanization both inside and outside Africa.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 6481.

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Date of creation: 01 Jun 2013
Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:6481
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  1. Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan & Bent E. Sørensen, 2014. "Misallocation, Property Rights, and Access to Finance: Evidence from within and across Africa," NBER Chapters,in: African Successes, Volume III: Modernization and Development, pages 183-211 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Esteban Rossi-Hansberg & Mark L. J. Wright, 2007. "Urban Structure and Growth," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 74(2), pages 597-624.
  3. 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.
  4. Davis, James C. & Henderson, J. Vernon, 2003. "Evidence on the political economy of the urbanization process," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 98-125, January.
  5. Paul Collier & Benedikt Goderis, 2009. "Structural policies for shock-prone developing countries," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 61(4), pages 703-726, October.
  6. Arvind Subramanian & Jonathan David Ostry & Simon Johnson, 2007. "The Prospects for Sustained Growth in Africa; Benchmarking the Constraints," IMF Working Papers 07/52, International Monetary Fund.
  7. James H. Stock & Mark W. Watson, 2008. "Heteroskedasticity-Robust Standard Errors for Fixed Effects Panel Data Regression," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 76(1), pages 155-174, 01.
  8. Markus Brückner & Antonio Ciccone, 2010. "International Commodity Prices, Growth and the Outbreak of Civil War in Sub-Saharan Africa," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 120(544), pages 519-534, 05.
  9. Timothy Besley & Robin Burgess, 2000. "Land Reform, Poverty Reduction, and Growth: Evidence from India," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(2), pages 389-430.
  10. Paul Collier & Benedikt Goderis, 2009. "Structural policies for shock-prone developing countries," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 61(4), pages 703-726, October.
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