When we talk about African urbanism, we often forget (or neglect) the inextricable linkages between Africa’s towns and cities and the (still very prominent) rural areas. That aluguntugui (sour sap) that we buy in the market, the yam, the cassava, the plantain, where does it come from?

Woman, aluguntugui, generosity. Central Region, Ghana.

Woman, aluguntugui, generosity. Central Region, Ghana.

My question is (and I don’t have any answer at the moment), how can we start looking at urban economic development that acknowledges and leverages the links to the rural? What would a successful sustainable urban-rural economic strategy look like? With the extent of rural-based populations in Africa, doesn’t any real urban economic strategy have to take into account the rural element (rural-to-urban migration, and the resulting brain drain to rural economies)?

Where can we find examples of successful urban-rural (or, rural-urban) economic strategies? Would a successful strategy look like an import-substitution approach – focusing on local production, which requires building better roads and distribution networks, improving and refining each step of production to improve product quality — with the intermediate goal of building local economies (urban AND rural), and the long-term goal of lessening dependence on exports?

Some food for thought in the new year.