Urban growth’s natural increase

Click to enlarge

Africa’s urban population growth rate was the world’s fastest at 4% between 1960 and 2010, and it is clear that urbanisation across its 54 countries will continue to pose policy challenge in the years ahead. But unlike in many other regions of the world, people quitting the countryside to settle in cities will not be the main driver of that growth.

For years, rural-urban migration fuelled the expansion of African cities, but while it will continue to be important, it will be outstripped by natural population increase within urban areas, as the ratio of birth rates to death rates widens. True, Africa’s rural population will also continue to grow by over 350 million in sub-Saharan Africa by 2050, a trend unseen elsewhere in the world. However, at the same time, the pace of rural-urban migration is slowing, and though it accounted for at least half of all urban growth in sub-Saharan Africa in the 1960s and 1970s, it accounts for less than a third today.

According to the African Economic Outlook 2016, migration is set to play a lesser role in future urbanisation for several reasons. One is that urbanisation itself will be an opportunity for existing rural populations to stay connected to the land, thanks to higher demand for their produce and an upgrading of agricultural supply chains that should make it more attractive to remain connected with the land. Another is that migration patterns themselves are changing as a gradual improvement in infrastructure, including the adoption of mobile phones, is leading to a growing tendency towards more temporary migratory flows.

A third factor is as important: the traditional rural and urban dividing lines have become increasingly blurred, with almost three-quarters of Africa’s population living in rural-urban interfaces of fewer than 500,000 inhabitants.  Africa’s urbanisation has thus reflected a mushrooming of “urban villages”, spurring growth along a chain of small towns. It is a model not unknown in the development of Europe, particularly Germany, where small and medium cities have been the norm.

As African cities grow, pressures to tackle the likes of mass transit, housing and poverty will be a considerable challenge. But rather than focusing only on cities, understanding the drivers of migration could inspire a broader set of policies that incorporate rural-urban dynamics and interactions that favour cities and regions alike. For instance, policies that focus on improving public services could reduce the push to migrate away from rural areas, since surveys show that dissatisfaction with these is a more important reason for moving to cities than looking for work.

©OECD Observer September 2016




Economic data

GDP growth: +0.7% Q2 2017 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.3% Sept 2017 annual
Trade: +1.4% exp, +1.7% imp, Q2 2017
Unemployment: 5.7% Sept 2017
Last update: 14 Nov 2017

E-Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive paper editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • Papers show “past coming back to haunt us”: OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria tells Sky News that the so-called "Paradise Papers" show a past coming back to haunt us, but one which is now being dismantled. Please watch the video.
  • The annual OECD Eurasia Week takes place in Almaty, Kazakhstan 23-25 October. Writing in The Astana Times, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría urges Eurasia countries to stay the course on openness and international integration, which has brought prosperity but also disillusionment, notably regarding inequality. The OECD is working with this key region, and Mr Gurría urges Eurasia to focus on human capital and innovation to enhance productivity and people’s well-being. Read more.
  • When someone asks me to describe an ideal girl, in my head, she is a person who is physically and mentally independent, brave to speak her mind, treated with respect just like she treats others, and inspiring to herself and others. But I know that the reality is still so much different. By Alda, 18, on International Day of the Girl. Read more.
  • Globalisation’s many benefits have been unequally shared, and public policy has struggled to keep up with a rapidly-shifting world. The OECD is working alongside governments and international organisations to help improve and harness the gains while tackling the root causes of inequality, and ensuring a level playing field globally. Please watch.
  • Read some of the insightful remarks made at OECD Forum 2017, held on 6-7 June. OECD Forum kick-started events with a focus on inclusive growth, digitalisation, and trust, under the overall theme of Bridging Divides.
  • Checking out the job situation with the OECD scoreboard of labour market performances: do you want to know how your country compares with neighbours and competitors on income levels or employment?
  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • How do the largest community of British expats living in Spain feel about Brexit? Britons living in Orihuela Costa, Alicante give their views.
  • Brexit is taking up Europe's energy and focus, according to OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. Watch video.
  • OECD Chief Economist Catherine Mann and former Bank of England Governor Mervyn King discuss the economic merits of a US border adjustment tax and the outlook for US economic growth.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at www.oecd.org/careers .

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2017