Drylands Research

Drylands Research Working Paper 24


This paper examines rural and urban population growth in the Kano hinterland of northern Nigeria (Kano, Jigawa and Katsina states) and in the adjacent Maradi Department of Niger. Census quality in Nigeria and Niger is examined. Nigerian data is available for 1931 (probably an underestimate). The census of 1952 was relatively sound, and (where available) the 1962 results seem plausible. The 1963 census is generally agreed to have been inflated for political reasons. The next successful census is that of 1991. In Niger the only censuses were in 1977 and 1988. A 1960 total for the department is an administrative estimate. The history of administrative units is reviewed since these provide not only a basis for census units, but also partly explains the growth of some of the urban centres.

Population density in the area surrounding Kano city has always been high, but the zone with more than 150/km2 has expanded outwards from a few adjacent districts in 1931 to most of the former Kano Province and into parts of Katsina by 1991. Densities in Maradi have always been much lower. In 1988 the three southern arrondissements had a density of 48/km2, and the three northern 23/km2, compared to 111/km2 in the immediately adjacent Daura area of northern Katsina in 1991.

Dry season migration has a long history in Hausa areas, often to seek temporary urban-based work. It can lead to permanent settlement, either in a town, or in a rural area perceived to give better opportunities than the home area. Permanent settlement takes place mainly in the very large area where Hausa speakers feel themselves culturally acceptable. It often involves a short move to the periphery of a more heavily settled area, but can be further afield. This explains the expansion of the densely settled areas.

The most spectacular change in the last 50 years has been the increase in the proportion of people living in towns of over 20,000 inhabitants. The Kano municipal area had nearly 1,400,000 people by 1991. The smaller towns were not evenly spread; Kano State had only four other towns over 20,000, all below 40,000. By contrast, Katsina State had 19 towns, in a range of sizes between 20,000 and 250,000. In Maradi only Maradi ville qualified as a town by the Nigerian criteria, with 110,000 inhabitants. Employment in the towns is mainly in the informal commercial and industrial sectors, as many lack electricity, water etc. for modern to support modern industries. It is calculated that urban grain needs rose from around 62,000 tons in 1952 to 585,000 tons in 1991. In addition to this vastly expanded local urban market (which also required livestock products, vegetables etc) there was also rising demand from southern Nigerian cities.

A further consequence of urban growth was that rural densities were lower than they otherwise have been. Due to lack of information on the location of towns, this is not easy to calculate, but for the many districts without big towns densities are 150-200 km2 (Figure 1). For Katsina state, rural density excluding towns is 98/km2, compared with a density including towns of 140/km2. In Jigawa the reduction is smaller, due to the smaller urban population (total 127/km2, rural 118/km2).

Details of occupations and educational characteristics are also given. The reasons for the uneven growth of towns and the concentration in low paid occupations are discussed.