Foundation Perspectives


PhotoSEFLOBridging the Urban-Rural Development Divide


Bill Jong-Ebot


It is important for development to encompass both urban and rural populations as well as their inter-connections. An understanding of these linkages provides the rationale for measures that can improve rural and urban environments, employment opportunities and living conditions. While it is important to look at urban and rural areas separately, it is equally helpful to examine the linkages that bind them. We are now living in  what many are calling the “urban century.”


In Africa, a majority of the population is still rural but that may change by 2030 when it is projected that rural Africa’s population will equal that of  urban Africa. What are the current links between rural and urban Africa with respect to trade, infrastructure, market and non-market institutions? What are the distinct differences between urban and rural dwellers? What should be done to accommodate Africa’s booming population, estimated to reach 2.1 billion in the next 35 years?  Accommodating both the continent’s urban and rural dwellers efficiently and equitably will be challenging but rewarding, if done right.


Spatial rural-urban linkages can be seen in the  flow of people, goods, money and information, along with social and economic relations. Sectoral linkages include agriculture and overall rural development, given the assumption that such development will reduce inequality, rural poverty and also benefit urban development. While an analysis of rural-urban linkages as a whole is noteworthy, the differences between urban centers and rural parts of Africa are compelling and demand great attention. Most poverty can be seen in the rural areas, caused by complex and multidimensional factors, including gender, culture, public policies, particularly land allocation. Rural populations rely on agriculture as a source of food and income but development assistance for agriculture is minimal.


Urban dwellers are slightly better off than rural dwellers but the urban poor often remain marginalized and are no better off than rural dwellers. Urban dwellers face several threats, including  access to piped water,  waste disposal, urban crime, air pollution, and poor nutrition. Economic growth in urban Africa is hampered by poor public services, ineffective management policies, and infrastructure.  A World Bank report once noted that African cities  “are part of the cause and a major symptom of the economic and social crisis that have enveloped the continent.” The report added that  “Africans need their cities to allow the economy to transform, but they also need to transform their cities.”


Overall,  African governments must not  neglect the key drivers of development, which are technological innovation, small- and medium-size businesses, and human resource development. As both rural and urban dwellers move from predominantly informal, basic trading and survivalist business practices to  high end activities, these key factors will be vitally important.


Governments should realize that urbanization is a powerful engine of growth. It needs sound policies, which include good governance, good infrastructure and transparency.  In rural areas, governments must invest in education, youth training and capacity building. They must also invest in women who bear the brunt of  small-scale farming.


Five Microcredit Programs That are Breaking the Cycle of Poverty


Isaac Hopkins, Nourishing the Planet


One of the best ways to encourage economic growth in poor areas is to provide affordable small loans to farmers and small-business owners. Called microcredit or microloans, these programs can inject capital into communities that lack the collateral required by conventional banks.


Ecova Mali’s first microgrant went to Fatoumata Dembele, to buy vegetable seeds for her village. (Photo credit: Ecova Mali)


Today, Nourishing the Planet introduces five innovative microcredit programs that are encouraging economic growth in poor communities.


Farmer-to-Farmer Programs: Microcredit programs tend to be most sustainable when they promote cooperation between residents of a community. Encouraging farmer-to-farmer support can be an effective technique because it allows participants to be less reliant on outside financing and guidance.


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Message to Southern Africa Leaders: Invest in Women and Smallholder Farmers


Daniela Costa, Oxfam International


From the 17-18 August 2015, SADC (Southern African Development Community) Heads of State will be meeting in Gaborone, Botswana, for their 35th Ordinary Summit. SADC member states will take key decisions that will determine the direction of development and integration in the region. When Presidents Mugabe, Khama and Zuma sit down with other regional leaders to thrash out the details of key policy proposals, the centrality of one issue should be elevated above all others: the importance of investment in women and smallholder farmers


Smallholder farmers, and women in particular, are the future of agricultural development in Southern Africa. Despite rapid urbanization, around three quarters of Sub-Saharan Africans still reside in the rural areas and rely on agriculture for their livelihoods.


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Mobile Healthcare for Rural Ghana


The OPIC Blog


Sherry Ayittey, Ghana’s Minister of Health, seated, tours one of eight new mobile medical clinics that were introduced this month as part of the National Medical Equipment Modernization Project. OPIC is supporting the project by providing political risk insurance to  Belstar Development, LLC, the lead investor in the project. These mobile clinics will travel to currently underserved areas of the country and are equipped with backup generators so that they will be able to serve patients even when they do not have access to the electrical grid. The project plans call for a total of 8 mobile clinics and 10 maintenance and repair vehicles .


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African Cities: Key Challenges and Rising Urbanization


KMG Africa


Under the theme “Delivering on Africa’s Promise”, the 23rd World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa will provide an important platform for regional and global leaders from business, government and civil society to deepen the continent’s integration agenda and renew commitment to a sustainable path of growth and development.


Following on from The role of cities in Africa’s rise and The emergence of the African city, we look at the key challenges in cities and rising urbanization. While megacities like Lagos and Kinshasa have captured the world’s attention through their size and impressive rates of growth – both will overtake Cairo to become the two largest cities in Africa within the next few years.


Apart from Africa’s megacities, a next generation is emerging quickly. Cities like Luanda, Nairobi, and Addis Ababa are some of the fastest growing cities on the continent, driving dynamism and progressive change for their countries and Africa as a whole. These are the new investment locations and centers of innovation that are inspiring the next phase of exponential growth in Africa.


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Bill Jong-Ebot

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Foundation Perspectives

Bill Jong-Ebot It is important for development to encompass both urban and rural populations as well as their inter-connections. An understanding of these linkages...