What is it about?

We analysed the footprint of millions of buildings in Africa, detected by Google AI, to model the shape of all its cities. We measured if cities are more elongated (like a sausage) or round and if cities are sprawled or compact. Cities that are elongated and with more sprawl have longer commuting distances, so they need more energy to sustain their daily activities.

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Why is it important?

Cities in Africa will keep growing in the next few decades. Thus, planning better cities with shorter commuting distances (rounder and compact) will make them more livable and less pollutant. Due to the demographic expansion of the continent, some cities in Africa will be larger than Tokyo is today.


What makes this article unique is that we are an Applied Mathematician, an Environmental Economist and a Geospatial researcher working together with quite novel data from Google AI. After many interesting discussions, we designed a set of metrics to measure many aspects of African cities, including shape indicators but also related to volume, height, distance and others. We now have a better understanding of African cities, what happens as they expand, and what are the driving mechanisms behind them.

Rafael Prieto-Curiel
Complexity Science Hub

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Scaling of the morphology of African cities, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, February 2023, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2214254120.
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