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Urban economies, urban livelihoods and natural resource-based economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa: the constraints of a liberalized world economy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170-187
Number of pages18
JournalLocal Economy
Issue number2
Early online date23 Nov 2012
E-pub ahead of print23 Nov 2012
PublishedMar 2013


King's Authors


There is much speculation today about how rapid economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa is transforming development prospects in the region. However, in terms of a broad, multi-dimensional, understanding of the term ‘development’, into which social justice must be factored, there are real concerns about whether the undoubted improvements in GDP growth in many countries are strongly connected to urban-located investment and job growth. Many African countries remain poorly placed, in terms of global comparative advantage, to attract significant foreign investment except in primary sectors. The extreme inequality in the ways in which the benefits of current growth are being shared in many countries is another huge problem for the creation of urban employment growth. This paper relates these issues to evidence about levels of economic (in)security in many African cities, and to how these have been reflected in a slowing in the rate of urbanization in many countries. It also reviews the evidence about the distribution of incomes in sub-Saharan Africa, and argues that the development of middle classes with their associated higher consumption patterns, is minimal as yet. Finally it reflects on the links between internal economic stimuli from, for example, natural-resource based activities including mining and agriculture, and African urban economic development and growth.

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