The link between population density, developmental outcomes and perceptions of governance in sub-Saharan Africa

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Pranish Desai


A well-established debate in the study of African governance considers whether there is a link between the continent’s historically lower population densities and some of the governance and developmental challenges experienced within the continent. However, as this scholarship has tended to be qualitative and historical in focus, there is less knowledge about how the relationship between population density, development and governance functions across contemporary Africa, especially at the sub-national level. This article reports on a study that drew on this debate but applied a unique methodology reliant on statistical and geospatial techniques. This was done by linking data collected in Round 7 of the Afrobarometer survey with localised population density data. The study found that citizens living in higher-density areas are more likely to have access to superior infrastructure, and that they are also less likely to trust institutions and believe that the rule of law is present in their society. These findings have substantive implications for policymaking in a region that contains some of the fastest-growing and rapidly urbanising societies in the world.

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How to Cite
Desai, P. (2023). The link between population density, developmental outcomes and perceptions of governance in sub-Saharan Africa. The Africa Governance Papers, 1(3). Retrieved from
Research Articles
Author Biography

Pranish Desai, Good Governance Africa

Pranish Desai is a senior data analyst within the Governance Insights & Analytics programme at Good Governance Africa. He holds a Master of Arts in e-Science, obtained with distinction from the University of the Witwatersrand. This degree formed part of the Department of Science and Innovation’s National e-Science Postgraduate Teaching and Training Platform. He also holds a Bachelor of Social Sciences in philosophy, politics and economics from the University of Cape Town, and a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree from the University of the Witwatersrand. His research interests include comparative politics, democratisation, quantitative social analysis and political geography.


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