Africa's Cities: Opening Doors to the World

February 10 2017

Why are African Cities growing in size but not in productivity and how can African Cities escape the low development trap? 

In cooperation with the World Bank, our principial investigators, J. Vernon Henderson and Antony J. Venables, worked on a report that highlights how cities can transform from crowded, disconnected and costly cities to livable, productive and affordable cities.

One explanation is that African Cities have lower capital investments than regions with similar levels of Urbanisation. This World Bank Report tries to dig a bit deeper and explains why these cities don't attract more investments.

The answer: African Cities are closed to the world. 

African Cities deal with institutional and regulatory constraints that misallocate land and labor, fragment physical development, and limit productivity. As long as African cities lack functioning land markets and regulations and early, coordinated infrastructure investments, they will remain local cities: closed to regional and global markets, trapped into producing only locally traded goods and services, and limited in their economic growth.

The report is led by Somik Lall and written as part of the African Regional Studies Program, an initiative of the Africa Region Vice-Presidency at the World Bank. It draws on a set of over twenty-five research papers produced by this Research Programme. 

World Bank Publication

Download Report


Tony Venables is Professor of Economics at the University of Oxford where he also directs the Centre for the Analysis of Resource Rich Economies. He has published extensively in the areas of international trade and spatial economics, including work on trade and imperfect competition, economic integration, multinational firms, and economic geography.

Vernon Henderson joined the LSE in September 2013 as School Professor of Economic Geography, having previously been Eastman Professor of Political Economy at Brown University, USA.