What makes West African border cities special?

Gaya, Niger. Photo: © Olivier Walther

By Olivier J. Walther, University of Florida

In a new paper published in French in IG today, African Networks Lab Coordinator Olivier Walther, Lawali Dambo and Moustapha Koné examine West Africa’s urbanization process and the demographic role of border cities in the region.

The paper shows that West African border cities are different from other cities. Since the mid twentieth century, border cities have grown faster than other cities in the region. This rapid growth is especially visible within 50 km of national borders, where the most dynamic markets are located. The paper also confirms that border cities are smaller than other cities in West Africa. In other words, the average population of cities increases with distance from a border. Finally, the paper shows that the density of border cities is higher than that of the average urban center in the region. Cities located near a border are much denser than the regional average.

The rapid population growth and urban sprawl seen today in West African border cities should encourage policy makers to support urban development plans that maximize intra urban interaction if they wish to make the most of agglomeration economies.

This work is funded by the OECD Sahel and West Africa Club.

Published by Olivier J. Walther

Assistant Professor of Geography specializing in trade and political violence in West Africa

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