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Even though Urbanisation is Enriching Africans, They are not Benefiting as Much as they Could

The growth of African cities is idiosyncratic and inefficient. This is true not just of megacities such as Lagos and Kinshasa, but of towns and smaller cities, like Kisumu, that draw less attention but where most African urbanites live. Though megacities and their slums often get more attention, roughly 60% of the continent’s urban population lived in towns and cities that had fewer than 1m inhabitants in 2015. Of the 20 cities in Africa with the fastest-growing populations from 2000 to 2020, only one is a capital city (Abuja in Nigeria) and just five have populations of more than 1m people, according to David Satterthwaite of the International Institute for Environment and Development, a British think-tank, which looked only at cities with 300,000-plus people. Many of the burgeoning places are “second cities”: regional economic and administrative hubs, such as Bunia and Kabinda in Congo, and Kuito in Angola. Urbanisation is good for Africa—but it could be so much better. Economists talk a great deal about the magic of agglomeration: how, as cities get bigger, the economies of scale and the spill over effects can lead to higher productivity. Yet, as the World Bank puts it, African cities are “too crowded, too disconnected and too costly” to make the most of this magic..