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Abstract:

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SERC/Urban and Spatial Programme Discussion Paper
Colonial Legacies: Shaping African Cities
Neeraj Baruah, J. Vernon Henderson and Cong Peng
November 2017
Paper No' SERCDP0226:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: H7; N97; O1; O43; P48; R5


Tags: colonialism; persistence; africa; sprawl; urban form; urban planning; leapfrog

Differential institutions imposed during colonial rule continue to affect the spatial structure and urban interactions in African cities. Based on a sample of 318 cities across 28 countries using satellite data on built cover over time, Anglophone origin cities sprawl compared to Francophone ones. Anglophone cities have less intense land use and more irregular layout in the older colonial portions of cities, and more leapfrog development at the extensive margin. Results are impervious to a border experiment, many robustness tests, measures of sprawl, and sub-samples. Why would colonial origins matter? The British operated under indirect rule and a dual mandate within cities, allowing colonial and native sections to develop without an overall plan and coordination. In contrast, integrated city planning and land allocation mechanisms were a feature of French colonial rule, which was inclined to direct rule. The results also have public policy relevance. From the Demographic and Health Survey, similar households which are located in areas of the city with more leapfrog development have poorer connections to piped water, electricity, and landlines, presumably because of higher costs of providing infrastructure with urban sprawl.