Cities & urbanisation

In the next 30 years, Africa’s population is projected to double to 2.5 billion people and its urban areas will be home to an additional 950 million people. Africa’s urban transition is an opportunity to create new social, economic and environmental development models. We work with partners at local, national and global level to support policy-makers in making cities and territories more liveable, inclusive and sustainable. SWAC produces data and analyses to provide a better understanding of current urbanisation dynamics and future trends.



Africa’s COP: Where does West Africa stand with respect to the global climate agenda?

The year’s COP27 is being called ‘Africa’s COP’. Even though African countries bear little responsibility for global emissions, they bear some of the harshest impacts. But far from being passive observers, they are active participants in the global climate agenda. Find out more


Boosting African cities' resilience to climate change: The role of green spaces

The next few decades will bring an era of rapid urbanisation and unprecedented climate stress in African cities. Green spaces can boost the resilience of cities to heat waves, floods, landslides, and even coastal erosion, in addition, to enhancing sustainability by improving air quality, protecting biodiversity, and absorbing carbon. All of which can enhance well-being. Yet, data on the availability of green spaces in African urban agglomerations is scarce. This analysis fills the gap by combining new and novel data sources to estimate the availability of green spaces in 5 625 urban agglomerations with 10 000 inhabitants and above. Find out more


Africa's Urbanisation Dynamics 2022

Produced in partnership with the African Development Bank and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the 2022 edition of Africa's Urbanisation Dynamics, provides a new perspective on Africa’s urban economies that is unique in its breadth and level of detail. Based on data from more than 4 million individuals and firms in 2 600 cities across 34 countries, it presents compelling evidence that urbanisation contributes to better economic outcomes and higher living standards. It shows that across most socio-economic dimensions, cities significantly outperform the countries in which they are located. In Africa, urbanisation accounts for approximately 30% of the growth in per capita gross domestic product (GDP) over the past 20 years. Importantly, the gains from urbanisation on economic performance and quality of life extend beyond city boundaries, also benefiting rural areas. The report sets forth policy priorities at national and local levels that are essential to realise the potential of urbanisation. Find out more

Interactive story

The Economic Power of Africa's Cities

Africa’s urban transition is an opportunity to create new social, economic and environmental development models. Are cities and governments ready? Through an interactive chart, video and infographics, this interactive story takes a fresh look at what urbanisation looks like today and its implications for citizens and governments. Find out more


Future of Africa's cities: What the experts say

African cities are a diverse blend of social, economic and political contexts. Urban planning and management, local government and decentralisation, investment, infrastructure development, reliable data and new technologies all have a role to play in ensuring that the specific needs of urban areas are addressed. In this series of interviews, policy makers and experts share their perspectives on urbanisation today and what it will take to make Africa’s cities more inclusive, liveable and sustainable.


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. If you would like to know more, you can download the report.


Introducing the extended and redesigned urban platform

We are delighted to announce the new platform, which includes exciting new functionalities, a new country profile section and an improved design for a better user experience.

The interactive data platform provides policy makers and researchers with original data, visualisations and insight into Africa's urban dynamics. It highlights the diversity and the scale of ongoing transformations, providing a strong basis for the design of sustainable and inclusive urban and place-based development policies.


Start exploring 


How is Life in West Africa's Cities?

The number of people living in African cities is expected to double over the next two decades, making it more important than ever for urban residents to have a say in the future of their cities.

The most recent West African Paper presents findings from the first large-scale perception survey of urban quality of life covering 27 cities in 17 countries in the region. Responses from nearly 9,000 urban West Africans provide an insight into how people perceive city life, local government quality and policy priorities.

The survey also offers a glimpse of how young West Africans view their cities and how gender can influence perceptions of urban life. If you would like to know more about the survey you can download the report and check out the survey page.








Africa's Urbanisation Dynamics 2020

In 2015, Kenya had more urban dwellers than the entire continent combined in 1950. Africa will continue to have the fastest urban growth in the world, profoundly reshaping the continent’s economic, social and political geography. The report Africa’s Urbanisation Dynamics 2020: Africapolis, Mapping a New Urban Geography highlights the diversity of contexts and sources of urban growth and their impact on current urbanisation patterns and forms, a diversity rarely captured in existing analyses and narratives.


Africapolis: Visualise Urbanisation in Africa

Produced by SWAC/OECD, is the only comprehensive and standardised geospatial database on cities and urbanisation dynamics in Africa. Combining demographic sources, satellite and aerial imagery and other cartographic sources, it is designed to enable comparative and long-term analyses of urban dynamics. Take an interactive journey and build custom visualisations of more than 7 700 urban agglomerations in 55 African countries. 


Mapping border cities and accessibility

What are the spatial representations of urban border centres? How is cross-border trade organised? Is there a correlation between the characteristics of border cities and their accessibility measures? This report, composed of four West African Papers is the result of a systematic analysis of the role West African border cities play in the process of regional integration. Based on a multidimensional mapping of 18 countries, the report analyses the local dynamics that have developed in urban areas, the impact distance has on national cohesion and the impact territorial divisions have at the international level.  

Read the four Papers: 

Regional Integration in Border Cities 

Population and Morphology of Border Cities 

Businesses and Health in Border Cities 

Accessibility and Infrastructure in Border Cities 


Practical guide

Climate Change: A Practical Guide to Legal & Financial Levers for Cities & Border Cities

Cross-border territories, cities in particular, are or should become areas of joint responsibility and management that pool their resources to address climate and risks. SWAC/OECD proposes a practical guide on the legislative and financial levers for developing cross-border initiatives on resilience to climate change. The guide is intended for local authorities, members of the Sahel and West Africa Club and other development partners, regional and international organisations that want to set-up effective governance structures for cross-border projects on climate resilience.