Has Climate Change Promoted Urbanization in Sub-Saharan Africa?

Adam Storeygard, Tufts University
Vernon Henderson, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
Uwe Deichmann, World Bank Group

This paper documents impacts of variation in climatic conditions on urbanization in sub-Saharan Africa, especially in arid countries. By lowering farm incomes, reduced moisture availability encourages migration to nearby cities, while wetter conditions slow it. This local impact is stronger than the effect on national primate cities. The paper also shows that there are rural-urban synergies. In countries where cities are starting to develop an industrial base, reduced moisture raises total incomes in nearby cities. However, if local cities are entirely dependent just on servicing agriculture so their fortunes move with those of agriculture, reduced moisture tends to reduce local urban incomes. Finally the paper shows that climate also induces changes within the rural sector itself. Drier conditions induce a shift out of farm activities especially for women, into non-participation in the work force and also into non-farm activities. Overall, these findings suggest a link between climate and urbanization.

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Presented in Session 101: Population Dynamics and Climate Change