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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Computer Science - Science Policy

Population Distribution, Settlement Patterns and Accessibility across Africa in 2010
Published: Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Author: Catherine Linard et al.

by Catherine Linard, Marius Gilbert, Robert W. Snow, Abdisalan M. Noor, Andrew J. Tatem

The spatial distribution of populations and settlements across a country and their interconnectivity and accessibility from urban areas are important for delivering healthcare, distributing resources and economic development. However, existing spatially explicit population data across Africa are generally based on outdated, low resolution input demographic data, and provide insufficient detail to quantify rural settlement patterns and, thus, accurately measure population concentration and accessibility. Here we outline approaches to developing a new high resolution population distribution dataset for Africa and analyse rural accessibility to population centers. Contemporary population count data were combined with detailed satellite-derived settlement extents to map population distributions across Africa at a finer spatial resolution than ever before. Substantial heterogeneity in settlement patterns, population concentration and spatial accessibility to major population centres is exhibited across the continent. In Africa, 90% of the population is concentrated in less than 21% of the land surface and the average per-person travel time to settlements of more than 50,000 inhabitants is around 3.5 hours, with Central and East Africa displaying the longest average travel times. The analyses highlight large inequities in access, the isolation of many rural populations and the challenges that exist between countries and regions in providing access to services. The datasets presented are freely available as part of the AfriPop project, providing an evidence base for guiding strategic decisions.
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