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Based on the location and surface of nearly 200 million buildings on the continent, we estimate the interbuilding distance of almost six thousand cities. Buildings’ footprint data enable the construction of urban form indicators to compare African cities’ elongation, sprawl, and emptiness. We establish the BASE model, where the mean distance between buildings is a functional relation to the number of Buildings and their average Area, as well as the Sprawl and the Elongation of its spatial arrangement. The mean distance between structures in cities—our proxy for its energy demands related to mobility—grows faster than the square root of its population, resulting from the combined impact of a sublinear growth in the number of buildings and a sublinear increase in building size and sprawl. We estimate that when a city doubles its population, it triples its energy demand from transport.


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