Farther on down the Road: Transport Costs, Trade and Urban Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa

Adam Storeygard, Brown University

This paper investigates the role of transport costs in the economic growth of sub-Saharan African cities. Despite the attention paid to large cities like Lagos, Kinshasa and Nairobi, 61% of African urbanites lived in cities of less than 500,000 in 2000, and this percentage is expected to remain high. In many countries, though, a large primate city, often a port, plays an important role in the economy, as the largest market, main (sometimes only) manufacturing center, and international trade hub. Other cities' relationships with this city are potentially critical to their success. I consider how transport costs to ports affected the growth of all cities as oil prices rose over the last decade. Using new data on roads, a proxy for urban growth in 300 cities in 16 countries, and a simple core-periphery model, I find that higher transport costs increased the growth advantage of nearer cities over further ones.

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Presented in Poster Session 6