West African Papers

The West African Papers series explores African socio-economic, political and security dynamics from a regional and multidisciplinary perspective. It seeks to stimulate discussion and gather information to better anticipate the changes that will shape future policies. The series is designed for a wide audience of specialists, development practitioners, decision makers and the informed public. Papers are available in English and/or French, and summaries are available in both languages. Initiated by the Sahel and West Africa Club (SWAC) to highlight and promote West African issues, the work presented is prepared by its Secretariat, Members and partners, other OECD departments, related international organisations, associated experts and researchers.

English Also available in: French

Cities and Spatial Interactions in West Africa

Over the past 60 years, urbanisation and cities have fundamentally transformed the social, economic and political geography of West Africa. The number of people living in cities increased from 5 million in 1950 to 133 million in 2010. During the same period, the number of towns and cities with more than 10 000 inhabitants grew from 159 to close to 2 000. A large majority of these agglomerations are secondary cities and small towns that act as hubs and catalysts for local and regional production and supply chains, as well as for the transfer of goods, people and information, linking the local and regional economies to the global economy. The intensity of the spatial interactions of cities has strongly increased with population growth, urbanisation and higher urban density. This paper, part of ongoing work within the Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat to integrate urbanisation and city growth into analyses of major trends in the region, lays the foundation for the development of a systematic method to capture and describe these spatial interactions. It does so by examining four variables: city size, market potential, urbanisation level and local dominance. These variables, in turn, help to define seven different city groups that can be used to classify West African agglomerations. The initial results of this work reveal the diversity and distinctive behaviours of cities in the region, providing a new perspective on urbanisation dynamics and the influence of spatial variables on urban growth rates, the emergence of new agglomerations and the clustering of cities.


Keywords: metropolitan areas, secondary towns, urbanisation, mega cities
JEL: C38: Mathematical and Quantitative Methods / Multiple or Simultaneous Equation Models; Multiple Variables / Classification Methods; Cluster Analysis; Principal Components; Factor Models; J11: Labor and Demographic Economics / Demographic Economics / Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts; C31: Mathematical and Quantitative Methods / Multiple or Simultaneous Equation Models; Multiple Variables / Multiple or Simultaneous Equation Models: Cross-Sectional Models; Spatial Models; Treatment Effect Models; Quantile Regressions; Social Interaction Models; R12: Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics / General Regional Economics / Size and Spatial Distributions of Regional Economic Activity; R58: Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics / Regional Government Analysis / Regional Development Planning and Policy
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