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Aerial View of an Industrial Area in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Governing Cities in Africa. A Panorama of Challenges and Perspectives Etudes de l'Ifri, February 2022

By 2050, about 60% of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa will live in urban areas. The governance of the rapid growth of capital and intermediary cities in Africa is one of the priorities of the international development agenda. 


Between 2020 and 2050, African cities, and especially secondary cities, have to absorb more than 700 million urban dwellers. Given these projections, urban growth in Africa has become a central concern of the international community, including experts from international organizations, researchers, aid agencies, and the private sector.

While expert meetings and research initiatives on the future of cities are accumulating, this study aims to take stock of the debate.

First, it provides an overview of the major issues that mostly policy-oriented research on cities in Africa has dealt with since independence. Based on this review, our paper builds on the concept of urban governance to approach the transformation and growth of African cities. Hereby we take into consideration the multiple actors (public, private, civil society, etc.), policy sectors (land, housing, infrastructure, etc.), and scales (local, national, international) that shape the political, economic, and social aspects of urban life. The paper also addresses African cities as part of a broader urban-rural continuum.

Second, this study proposes concrete avenues to contribute to ongoing research and technical initiatives on urban governance in Africa. More knowledge and data are needed to inform the debate on urban infrastructure financing and the role of intermediate cities in the broader urbanization process in Sub-Saharan Africa. We argue that a more detailed comprehension of land tenure systems is fundamental to understanding the challenges of future urban development in Africa.


This publication is available in French (PDF) : "Gouverner les villes africaines : panorama des enjeux et perspectives".

Governing Cities in Africa. A Panorama of Challenges and Perspectives
Geopolitics of African cities Urban governance in Africa Urban infrastructures in Africa Urban-rural continuum Kenya Sub-Saharan Africa Tanzania