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close this bookReversing the Spiral - The Population, Agriculture, and Environment Nexus in Sub-Saharan Africa (WB, 1994, 320 p.)
close this folder9. Infrastructure development, migration, and urbanization
View the documentInfrastructura development
View the documentTransport
View the documentWater supply
View the documentInfrastructure and environmental conservation
View the documentMigration and settlement policy
View the documentAn appropriate urbanization policy

An appropriate urbanization policy

During the past tree decades, Sub-Saharan Africa's urban population has grown about twice as fast as its total population In a number of countries the rate of urbanization has been even faster. It has been especially high in West, Central, and East Africa, relatively more modest in southern Africa (Montgomery and Brown 1990:76). The rapid growth of cities is due not only to the persistent high fertility rates among urban women in SSA, but in large part to the very high rate of rural-urban migration This ''land night" is caused in part by the strong urban bias inherent in the economic and investment policies of almost all SSA countries.

In much of Sub-Saharan Africa, rural out-rnigrat:ion involves predominantly young men (Russell, Jacobsen, and Stanley 1990a). Where policy has a heavy urban bias, this is particularly pronounced. As women, children, and the old stay behind, farm management is increasingly, left to women, who already have multiple and very heavy workloads and who face far greater constraints in access to resources and services than men (see Chapter 5). Many rural areas are characterized today by severely imbalance gender ratios in their adult population, with women substantially outnumbering men. In addition, if the migrants abandon resilient and productive areas in pursuit of urban jobs and in response to antiagricultural policy biases, this has a negative impact on agricultural production and rural development in the areas they leave.

Experience throughout the world suggests that urban populations have grown and will continue to grow much faster than rural populations-even if governments were to policies that do not favor urban over rural dwellers. What is needed, therefore, is an urbanization and urban development policy that also promotes agricultural development and preserves the integrity of the environment.

Where government policy discourages agricultural production and encourages agricultural imports to supply urban needs, there will be no positive impact of urbanization on agriculture This has tended to be the case in countries where urban development policy has focused heavily on the capital or on a few dominant cities, inevitably more distant from rural hinterlands Manifestations of such policy and expenditure bias are the subsidization of the consumption of urban populations (often based on imported food), preoccupation with large urban infrastructure projects, and focus of social expenditures in a few cities. The political influence of growing, massed, and vocal urban populations results in political pressure to keep food prices low and to target public investments and services disproportionately to the big cities. The result is the extraordinarily low level of public investment in rural roads, water, health, and education observed in much of Sub-Saharan Africa. Where governments have effectively resisted this pressure, the results have been positive for agricultural profitability and growth: Kenya, Togo, and Zimbabwe are cases in point.

Some countries have pursued policies that have led to the emergence of numerous and geographically dispersed secondary aces and rural towns closely linked with their surrounding rural areas (for example, Cameroon Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya, Nigeria, Togo). They also have a few very large cities (notably Abidjan, Nairobi, Lagos, Ibadan), but urbanization in these countries has also been characterized by the development of many smaller cities and rural towns throughout much of the national territory.

Figure 9-1 Urban Population as Percentage of Total Population in Sub-Saharan Africa, 1960-1990

This has had important positive effects on agriculture These towns and cities have created nonagricultural employment opportunities for some of the rural population, and this industrial and service sector development has been very closely linked to agriculture and to the needs of rural populations. Cash remittances to home villages are an important source of financing of both consumption and investment expenditures in rural areas. Urban growth creates expanding markets for farm products and tends to lead to increased supply and availability of farm inputs and services. This can make agriculture more profitable provided there are adequate transport links and marketing arrangements. Where networks of rural towns and secondary are distant megacities. For areas that are approaching the limits of sustainable agricultural land use under existing tenurial, technological, and climatic conditions, migration to secondary towns and cities reduces the population pressure and provides an important safety valve.

Considered in the context of the nexus, urbanization is both a result and a cause of environmental resource degradation People leave rural areas when they can no longer make a living there (or at least not year-round). Urban dwellers especially the vast numbers of poor, require fuelwood and food Urbanization concentrates; demand at specific locations. The heavy concentration of urban populations in a single capital city (often on the coast, rather than at a central inland location) makes things worse. Huge concentrations of people in a single location, coupled with high transport costs for domestically produced supplies, tend to make it easier and cheaper to import food than to obtain it from domestic producers. Government policies in most of Sub-Saharan Africa tend to keep producer prices of food and fuelwood low, reducing incentives for intensification of local food and wood production. Food imports, often sold at subsidized prices, further undermine the incentives for domestic producers. Imports can also lead to major changes in consumer preferences that may diminish demand for local products and be nutritionally undesirably. Fuelwood suppliers, responding to the dual opportunities presented by large concentrations of demand and virtually free access to the raw material base, mine the forests and woodlands around the cities and along roads.

Ensuring that urbanization promotes agricultural development and environmental resource conservation requires economic policies that do not discriminate against rural areas (for instance through discriminatory pricing, tax, and investment promotion policies). It also requires abettor balance between rural and urban areas in public investments in social and physical infrastructure. The more rapid agricultural growth that will occur in the absence of such discrimination is likely to have a positive impact on the economies of Africa's cities and their inhabitants.

Greater focus on secondary cities and rural towns, in infrastructure investment and urban development generally, and a reduced bias to invest in the megacities, will provide a beneficial rural-urban link. Powerful synergies can be tapped here. The examples of Cameroon, Kenya, and Togo show that rapid urbanization tends to occur in secondary cities and rural towns (rather than in megacities) if governments implement policies to promote agricultural development and rural growth (Becker and Morrison 1988). Agricultural growth is an essential lever to stimulate nonagricultural investment and growth as well as to influence population distribution.

A recent analysis of farm-nonfarm unkages in rural Sub-Saharan Africa found that each unit of increased agricultural income generated an additional increase of half a unit in nonagricultural rural incomes. The direction of causality was largely agricultural growth stimulating growth in services and manufacturing. Of the additional rural income generated, only about 20 percent was attributable to production linkages, but about 80 percent to consumption linkages (Haggblade and Hazell 1988; Haggblade, Hazell and Brown 1989). This stimulation of nonfarm activities and incomes in rural areas is less likely to occur when biased policies retard or prevent the development of secondary towns and cities and instead cut off rural areas and agriculture from the megacity and make the latter more dependent on imports. Sound urban policy, favoring rural towns and secondary cities over megacities, is an important element to ensure balanced urban and rural development.

The strong consumption linkages found between agricultural growth and nonagricultural production are likely to have significant positive effects on the real incomes or the rural poor—given the importance of female dominated food processing and beverage production and of service and manufacturing activities with low investment requirements. They are also likely to stimulate production of fruits, vegetables, and meat and, thus, agricultural intensification and diversification into higher-value products, with positive effects for rural income equity where, if, and as long as these commodities are produced by smallholders and pastoralists. The production linkages of increased agricultural incomes on rural equity depend heavily on the respective rates of growth of demand for agricultural wage labor and for purchased inputs, both of which are currently at very low levels (Haggblade and Hazell 1988; Haggblade, Hazell and Brown 1989).

A sound urban development policy will involve relatively more public expenditure in secondary towns and cities and less in the few large cities than has generally been the case to date. It will require spatially welldistributed infrastructure investment throughout the country (not merely in the largest cities). Market-based petroleum. pricing will be essential to promote the development of efficient transport fuel distribution systems throughout each country Small and medium-scale industry will need to be promoted—through industrial extension as well as fiscal and credit policies. Sound policy will also require considerable decentralization of decisionmaking to local people and rural cornmunities to avoid undue dominance of the major cities and their populations in national political decisionmaking. And there will have to be greater community control over urban resources: given adequate financial resources and the requisite technical and administrative assistance, local and community governments are more likely to create and maintain appropriately scaled and sited urban infrastructure facilities than are central governments. Investment in urban development should be responsive to demand for such investment, not driven by political considerations.