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

Urbanisation and demography in North and West Africa, 1950-2020

This brief presents a factual and retrospective analysis of the relationships between urbanisation and demography in North Africa and West Africa. It shows that the process of demographic transition is now fully underway in this region. North of the Sahara the new demographic equilibrium features a birth rate higher than expected, according to theoretical model predictions, resulting in continuous population growth. Over 70% of the population now lives in cities, a number that is expected to continue to rise in the coming decades. South of the Sahara all countries have seen death rates plummet, followed by a decrease in birth rates. The gap between the change in the two variables has contributed to spectacular natural growth in the space of a few decades. This growth is occurring in parallel with a redistribution of populations to urban areas, which are now home to close to one of every two inhabitants. West African urbanisation is likely to accelerate the social, economic and political changes that favour the demographic transition. One of the main challenges facing the region is the question of how to reduce the regional variations seen in fertility rates between the continent’s urban and rural areas.

English Also available in: French

Keywords: demography, West Africa, urbanisation, birth rate, population
JEL: N37: Economic History / Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy / Economic History: Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy: Africa; Oceania; N97: Economic History / Regional and Urban History / Regional and Urban History: Africa; Oceania; Q56: Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics / Environmental Economics / Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
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