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Institutions persisting from colonial rule affect the spatial structure and conditions under which 100s of millions of people live in Sub-saharan African cities. In a sample of 318 cities, Francophone cities have more compact development than Anglophone, overall, in older colonial sections, and at clear extensive margins long after the colonial era. Compactness covers intensity of land use, gridiron road structures and leapfrogging of new developments. Why the difference? Under British indirect and dual mandate rule, colonial and native sections developed without coordination. In contrast, integrated city planning and land allocation were featured in French direct rule. These differences in planning traditions persist.