CITIES: gateways for Africa’s regional economic integration

Urbanization and regional trade integration are dual megatrends, and each is likely to have a powerful impact on African economies and broader economic development throughout the region. While African urbanization and African trade integration have both been extensively studied and are the subject of ongoing policy dialogue, the relationship between the two trends has yet to be examined in depth: the present report aims to address that knowledge gap. The focus of the present report is on the relationships between regional trade and economic geography, with particular attention given to the role of cities. The goal of the report is to examine the nexus between African trade integration and urban economic geography. The report touches on a number of relevant issues, including the likely impact of trade on spatial disparity among and within countries, but does not examine those issues in depth. Indeed, issues such as regional disparity, informality and e-commerce, and the impact of the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic on urban planning and trade will require further research. It is also important to deepen understanding of the relationship linking economic geography, cities and trade at the sub regional and country levels in order to obtain more contextualized and data-driven insights into those phenomena and strengthen policy formulation.