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Urban Giants: The Costs of Primacy in Sub-Saharan Africa

4th May 2017

Author: Sebastian Kriticos

Africa’s urbanisation is characterised by its tremendous speed and heavy concentration. Today, urban giants like Lagos and Cairo have amassed more than 20 million inhabitants, whilst other African cities such as Kinshasa, Luanda, and Dar es Salaam (all above 5 million) continue to grow at breakneck speed. How these primary cities evolve, and their influence on the rest of the urban hierarchy will have tremendous impacts for Africa’s future development. 

Will we ever see the light of day? - Measuring economic outcomes from very high resolution imagery

18th Apr 2017

Author: Tanner Regan

The world is routinely photographed from space on a vast scale. This abundant source of information can help answer economic questions that have been, until now, hindered by a lack of suitable data. How can economists put highly detailed daytime photographs to use? This question is only now beginning to be answered leaving tremendous potential for the future.

Nighttime Lights - How are they useful?

8th Mar 2017

Author: Jamila Nigmatulina

It is often harder than it seems to measure and trace how much productivity is increasing in a place. It becomes even harder in countries where national, let alone subnational statistics, are poor. In such countries, it is already difficult to tell where people live and how fast the population is growing. It is even harder to answer relevant policy questions regarding urban planning and transportation needs. Night Lights data can potentially help us find answers to these questions.

The importance of property rights for successful urbanisation in developing countries

20th Feb 2017

Authors: Patricia Jones, Astrid Haas

Africa’s urbanisation differs from historical patterns because it is occurring without a simultaneous development of land property rights. This blog examines the role of property rights in creating well-functioning cities and concludes that weak property rights in African cities are likely to be linked to reduced investment, inefficient labour allocation, and lower tax revenues.

On the Spatial Distribution of Development. The Roles of Nature and History.

31st Jan 2017

Authors: Vernon Henderson, Adam Storeygard, Tim Squires, David Weil

What determines where people live? Why are some places so densely populated and some so empty?  In daily life, we take this variation in density as a matter of course, but in many ways it can be quite puzzling. 

Flooding and urban adaptation

16th Jan 2017

Authors: Adriana Kocornik-Mina, Thomas K.J. McDermott, Guy Michaels, Ferdinand Rauch

If the economic costs of flooding are high, and cities at lower elevations tend to flood more frequently, why do communities continue to rebuild on the same, flood-prone lands? This blog explores the economic impact of flooding and suggests that aid for reconstruction could be used to encourage economic activity to shift away from flood prone areas.

Curse of anonymity or tyranny of distance? The impacts of job-search support in urban Ethiopia

18th Nov 2016

Author: Simon Franklin

Urban jobs are key drivers of economic growth in developing countries. Finding ways to connect and match young and skilled workers with better jobs remains a key policy challenge. In Ethiopia, experiments with training and transport subsidies show great promise.

Uber is arriving now: Driving urban mobility in Africa

4th Nov 2016

Authors: Julia Bird, Astrid Haas

The Uber revolution has arrived. The ride-share app launched services in South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, and more recently in Uganda and Ghana. One of the biggest potential benefits of Uber in African cities could be to provide urban planners and authorities grappling with how to manage rapid urbanisation with access to data. The app collects substantial data on ride times, routes, and estimates of the supply and demand for paid transport.

Urban experimentation: How housing, transport, and infrastructure projects are revolutionising Addis Ababa

28th Oct 2016

Authors: Julia Bird, Simon Franklin

With increasing migration into African cities, the planning and design of emerging cities becomes increasingly important. Greater efforts to provide affordable housing, better transport links, and investments in infrastructure around Addis Ababa have shown tremendous promise in helping shaping the city into a more productive, inclusive, and liveable space for the new waves of urban dwellers. The photos in this essay offer a window into the change unfolding in Addis Ababa.