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Satellite towns: Benefiting from proximity

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Twenty-five per cent of West Africa’s nearly 2 000 urban agglomerations can be described as satellite towns. These 461 towns have a combined population of 14.4 million or 11% of the total urban population of West Africa. Nigeria is the country with the greatest number of satellite towns (367). Satellite towns are, by definition, modest in size with an average of 31 000 inhabitants. The large majority of satellite towns are located in close proximity (less than 40km) to large cities and benefit from shared facilities such as airports, roads and universities; and services such as banking, hospitals and public transport. They also gain from the considerable market potential provided by the populations of their larger neighbours. This high market potential, calculated here in terms of the total population living within the region of a town, can explain why satellite towns have experienced strong growth in both size and number over the past decade. Satellite towns also increasingly attract industrial activity and decongest existing industrial zones that are located closer to big cities. This is the case, for example, of Attinguié, a town north of Abidjan where the government launched the development of Abidjan’s new industrial area ‘PK24’. With continuing urban growth and the development of manufacturing, industrial and service activities, the number of satellite towns is set to grow in West Africa. 

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