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The Origin of Primate Cities in Africa

Uploaded by tyson_626 on Jan 06, 2005

The Origin of Primate Cities in Africa: How European Colonies Have Led to Urban Primacy

A country's urban system has a strong affect on national and regional economies, and for this reason, the governments of developing countries are greatly concerned with the factors influencing the development of urban primacy. Particularly in Africa, many people migrate to primate cities to find new opportunities, and governments are concerned that this urban growth will have adverse affects. If such governments are interested in new policies pertaining to urban growth, then a strong understanding about why primate cities have developed is important. With a focus on the developing countries of Africa, this paper first discusses how economic and colonial histories have led to urban primacy. It then examines the ways in which particular characteristics of African countries today have contributed to the development of primate cities.

These factors include a country's size, level of economic development, economic structure, ethnic composition, income inequality, or government structure and policies.

In Africa, the development of many countries has been significantly impacted by previous colonization by Europeans. Traditionally, most countries worldwide have developed urban systems that somewhat resemble the model of central place theory (CPT). CPT states that urban systems develop under a well-ordered structure of agglomeration economies and transportation costs (Becker). The theory behind this process is based on the triangular model of interaction between large cities, small cities, and agricultural areas. The large cities mass-produce goods, which are then shipped to smaller cities for distribution to more rural agricultural areas. The agricultural areas then produce food that is shipped back to the urban areas, thus completing the triangle. However, the colonization of Africa did not permit a natural course of development, and CPT has little application on this continent.

For CPT to be relevant, a region must have an agricultural surplus and the adequate infrastructure to lower transportation costs. However, prior to and during colonization, manufacturing and other forms of industry were not common in Africa. Subsistence agriculture was most common throughout the continent, and without a significant agricultural surplus, it is difficult for the manufacturing of goods to occur outside the informal sector (Becker). Almost no manufacturing centers drawing from nearby natural resource bases saw the realization of scale economies (Becker).

During the precolonial period, however, urban areas did develop to some degree. Some urban areas arose for defensive reasons, while others grew as a result of minor trade networks...

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Uploaded by:   tyson_626

Date:   01/06/2005

Category:   European

Length:   7 pages (1,629 words)

Views:   9615

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