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African Urbanization and Development Research Initiative

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Africa is one of the most rapidly urbanizing regions in the world. The United Nations estimates that, by 2035, nearly half of the continent’s population will be living in cities. Rising urban populations offer tremendous opportunities for economic growth and prosperity, but they also pose big challenges for infrastructure development, job creation, and access to basic services.

The African Urbanization and Development Research Initiative (AUDRI) is a research program to study, through the construction of a wide-ranging multi-year panel dataset, the changing economic, social, and political conditions in two of Africa’s largest cities—the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, and the economic capital of Côte d’Ivoire, Abidjan.

Through rigorous analyses of the complex web of interactions among individuals, firms, service providers, and local officials that together determine a community’s quality of life, AUDRI aims to produce insights that can inform policies and practices in those two cities and beyond. The collected data are made publicly available to enable additional evidence-based studies of interest to academics and policymakers.

AUDRI is committed to promoting collaboration with in-country research groups and decision makers. The initiative also provides graduate and undergraduate students with extensive training in data collection and data analysis methods, as well as the opportunity to use the data generated to conduct their own research.


Descriptive results from individual-level data collection are available for Addis Ababa (first wave) and Abidjan (first wave and second wave). There is also a summary of the two waves of the firm survey conducted in Ethiopia.

Featured Projects

Measuring Relative Poverty through Peer Rankings

Relative poverty rankings from community members have surged as an alternative to identify the poorest members of a community in the absence of administrative income data. Relying on key informants has been shown to produce reasonable rankings in small rural hamlets. It is, however, unclear whether it applies to urban and peri-urban areas with a more mobile population and less dense social networks. Measuring Relative Poverty through Peer Rankings: Evidence from Côte d'Ivoire highlights the limitations of using peer rankings in high-density neighborhoods. The evidence suggests that urban and peri-urban areas may experience too much income variation and spatial mobility to allow neighbors to accurately guess each other’s relative economic standing.

COVID-19 Impacts in Ethiopia and Côte d’Ivoire

In 2020, AUDRI conducted rapid phone surveys to assess the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on households. AUDRI has produced a short report for the Ethiopian government regarding school re-entry. It also has documented the changes in employment and income in Greater Abidjan.

A Study of Antagonistic Labor Relations among Foreign, Domestic, and Chinese-Owned Manufacturing Firms in Ethiopia

"Labor conflict within foreign, domestic, and Chinese-owned manufacturing firms in Ethiopia" documents antagonistic labor relations in foreign-owned firms in Ethiopia. The findings suggest that misaligned perceptions about the role of local labor institutions may be a driver of conflict in foreign-owned firms.

Video Testimonials about Life in Abidjan

As part of AUDRI’s second wave of in-person household surveys of Côte d’Ivoire, AUDRI invited respondents to volunteer short video testimonials for one of three documentaries on life in Abidjan, the country’s largest city. Babi is the city’s nickname among its inhabitants. All testimonials are in French, the main language of communication in this large multi-cultural city.

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‘Babi la joie’ is about enjoying life in and around the city.

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‘Babi la dure’ contains testimonials on the difficulties of everyday life in the city.

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‘Abidjan terre d’opportunité’ is about the economic and social opportunities offered by the city.

For more information about AUDRI, please contact King Center Executive Director Jessica Leino at

Initiative story

A long-term focus on growing cities in Africa

Multi-year panel datasets from the African Urbanization and Development Research Initiative continue to inform significant research and policy insights in two of the largest cities in sub-Saharan Africa: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

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Initiative story

Predoctoral fellowships expand access to global development research

Predoctoral Research Fellows Deivy Houeix and Eva Lestant traveled to Côte d’Ivoire to survey small business owners as part of the African Urbanization and Development Research Initiative.

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