Rural-Urban Transformations and the Role of Small Towns in Sub-Saharan Africa / Jytte Agergaard... [et al.]

Article
After decades of academic and policy scepticism on the role of urbanisation in economic, social and cultural change, the issue is attracting renewed academic focus and political attention. Such interest was also evident during the 1990s, and in this paper the authors revisit the debate with specific attention to Sub-Saharan Africa. The paper discusses the continuing challenges on classifications, and suggests that small towns should be considered on the basis of their functions and in the context of rural–urban transformations. Turning to the current debates, it is highlighted how small town development has attracted renewed interest not only in development economics, but also research into the rush for land, mining, conflict and climate change. These trends are fleshed out in a focussed presentation of the six papers on small town development in Sub-Saharan Africa that make up this special issue of the European Journal of Development Research. Based on the arguments and findings of the papers, it is recommended that small towns are best seen as organic parts of the rural region where they are located, albeit not necessarily as ‘outcomes’ of rural economic development. Accordingly, the renewed interest in urbanisation, formalised in the New Urban Agenda and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11, needs to address rural–urban synergies as integral to urbanisation dynamics. [Abstract]