This is a three year programme of research, funded by the World Bank and undertaken jointly by LSE and Oxford. Our work is looking at both at the development of city systems – the urban hierarchy within and across countries – and at urban form – the internal organisation of particular cities, focusing on Africa.

The programme of research aims to:

  • Build a credible database documenting the speed, magnitude and spatial form of urban development in selected countries
  • Use this data to establish the facts about urbanisation and urban form
  • Examine the determinants of and consequences of differing patterns of urban growth
  • Identify the role of policy interventions and establish policy priorities.

Economic growth and urbanization go hand in hand and are critical to poverty reduction in a country. Ultimately, cities provide both the lived environment and the work environment for most people in high-income countries and an increasing number of middle income ones. Cities have the potential to reap major economies of scale and scope.

But the gains from urbanization are not automatic. Urbanisation requires three distinct investment processes: public investment in infrastructure, enterprise investment in productive capital, and household investment in housing and human capital. These investments interact and require coordination and sequencing. Managing them requires a high level of commitment and consensus on strategic policy directions across a wide range of actors, at both the national and local level. Many cities have not offered the policy environment needed to reach the investment levels required for effective urbanisation. One purpose of this major program of work is to ignite such awareness among researchers and policymakers, especially in countries where much urbanization has yet to occur and there is an opportunity for a better start.