Africapolis: A comparable geo-spatial database on cities and urbanisation dynamics in Africa

Africa is projected to have the fastest urban growth rate in the world - by 2050, Africa’s cities will be home to an additional 950 million people. Cities and their inhabitants are increasingly shaping the continent's economic, social and political geography. There is a continuous need to better understand urbanisation, what it looks like today and what this means for the future. 

What is Africapolis?

Although there is a growing interest in African cities, there is little data and research available beyond the continent’s megacities. Africapolis is a major step towards closing this data gap.

Produced by the Sahel and West Africa Club (SWAC) in collaboration with E-geopolis, is the only comprehensive and standardised geospatial database on cities and urbanisation dynamics in Africa. Combining demographic sources, satellite and aerial imagery and other cartographic sources, it is designed to enable comparative and long-term analyses of urban dynamics - covering 7 500 agglomerations in 50 countries. It provides population estimates at the level of individual agglomerations, systematic geolocation and information on the size and evolution of an agglomeration's built-up area since 1950. The data highlight the role of small towns and secondary cities in urban networks, the emergence of new urban agglomerations and the increasing fluidity between urban and rural environments (hyper rural – meta urban). 


Who is Africapolis for?

‌Africa’s urban transition offers tremendous opportunities, but also brings with it enormous challenges. Africapolis provides the evidence base for a wide range of development policies at the local, national and regional levels. The new data and analyses generated by Africapolis aim to improve policy makers’ and researchers’ capacity to better target resources and develop policies that support a managed urban transition. In particular, by integrating thousands of agglomerations with fewer than 100,000 inhabitants, it provides an evidence base for secondary cities and small towns which play an important role in moving towards more balanced and sustainable urban development in line with the New Urban Agenda in Africa and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 to “make cities and human settlements more inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

The data portal was launched on 22 November at the 2018 Africities Summit in Marrakesh. allows users to explore, visualise and map over 200 000 data points. It provides a powerful tool for understanding urbanisation dynamics in Africa. Users can download the full dataset to explore it in more detail or apply it to their own needs and they can contribute data and stories to make the platform grow.


The full report will be available at the beginning of 2020. For more information contact: