Understanding the dynamics of Nigeria’s urban transition: A refutation of the ‘stalled urbanisation’ hypothesis

Sean Fox*, Robin Bloch, Jose Monroy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)
1162 Downloads (Pure)


Nigeria contains some of Africa’s oldest and newest cities, hosts five of the 30 largest urban settlements on the continent, and is estimated to have the biggest urban population on the continent. Yet many of the basic ‘facts’ about spatial-demographic trends in Nigeria have been contested. Most recently, an article published in World Development in 2012 claimed that urbanisation had stalled in Nigeria. In an effort to establish and explain the stylised facts of Nigeria’s urban transition we analyse demographic and spatial trends drawing on diverse sources, including censuses, household surveys, remotely sensed data and migration studies conducted over the past three decades. The evidence does not support the claim of stalled urbanisation: Nigeria’s urban population is growing rapidly in absolute terms and will continue to increase as a share of the national population because of both rural–urban migration and rural transformation. These drivers of urbanisation are a product of persistently high fertility in a context of declining mortality in both rural and urban areas. Robust economic growth over the past decade likely accelerated urbanisation, but even as the economy slows demographic fundamentals will continue to drive rapid urban growth and urbanisation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)947-964
Number of pages18
JournalUrban Studies
Issue number5
Early online date24 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018


  • Africa
  • Nigeria
  • urban expansion
  • urban growth
  • urbanisation


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