Demography, Democracy, Development and Urban Protest in Sub-Saharan Africa

40 Pages Posted: 4 Aug 2014

See all articles by Sean Fox

Sean Fox

School of Geographical Sciences

Date Written: 2014


Why are some countries in sub-Saharan Africa more prone to outbreaks of urban protests than others? Drawing together insights from the contentious politics and conflict studies literatures I develop an empirical model of protest incidence comprised of basic demographic, political and economic factors that theoretically influence the motives and means of potential protesters and the political opportunity structures they face. The results of a panel data analysis covering 40 African countries between 1990 and 2011 indicate that large urban populations, hybrid political institutions, election events, recent regime change and slow economic growth increase the likelihood of urban protests, as expected. However, several unexpected results emerge: urban protest incidence is negatively associated with a country’s level of urbanization and degree of press freedom and positively correlated with income. More research is required to confirm these results, clarify mechanisms and account for broader trends in contentious collective action in the region.

Keywords: Urbanization, protest, contentious politics, democratization, economic development, armed conflict, Africa

JEL Classification: D74, H10, J11, J18, J52, N37, N47, O10, O18

Suggested Citation

Fox, Sean, Demography, Democracy, Development and Urban Protest in Sub-Saharan Africa (2014). APSA 2014 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN:

Sean Fox (Contact Author)

School of Geographical Sciences ( email )

United Kingdom

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