RurbanAfrica was all about collaboration. Linking rural and urban parts of sub-Saharan Africa and addressing the critical connections, this project championed progress and challenged some of the myths that hinder development.

2012 - 2017
Cecilia Tacoli

Senior associate, Human Settlements

Urbanisation and rural-urban linkages
A programme of work on urbanisation and the links between rural and urban areas

Women selling bananas in a street market (Photo: International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Creative Commons via Flickr)

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) was a partner in African Rural-City Connections, which in its name illustrated the interconnectedness between rural and urban.

RurbanAfrica explored the connections between rural transformations, mobility, and urbanisation processes and the impact these have on poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. With our partners, IIED addressed a number of crucial components, such as:

  • Agricultural transformation
  • Rural livelihoods
  • City dynamics, and
  • Access to services.

To underpin these, IIED supported policy dialogue so ideas could be captured and shared, and looked at how the findings could be managed and shared. All this depended on integrating policy research, on policy dialogue, on knowledge sharing and on empirical research.

The project challenged a number of generally accepted 'truths' about rural and city development. IIED and partners questioned the overall negative interpretations usually assumed about the economic role of rural-urban mobility and migration in sub-Saharan Africa. New insights into the relationship between rural-city connections and poverty dynamics were also generated.

There was great collaboration between researchers from sub-Saharan African and European partners, and co-supervision of PhD students. The project contributed to capacity building and curriculum development. It was supported by a scientific advisory board, again with members from European and sub-Saharan African research institutions.

RurbanAfrica partners from Africa and Europe (Photo: RurbanAfrica)

The group that collaborated on RurbanAfrica included partners from Africa and Europe and was diverse and interdisciplinary: just the kind of combination needed to address the complexities of rural:urban linkages.


Copenhagen University (This is the host site for RurbanAfrica)

University of Toulouse le Mireil

University of Utrecht

University of Ghana

Loughborough University

Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania

Ardhi University, Tanzania

University of Dschang

National University of Rwanda


European Union (from the Seventh Framework Programme for research technological development and demonstration)