Urban Forum

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Settlement in Transition: a Transformation of a Village into a Small Town in Western Sudan

  • Mohamed Babiker Ibrahim
  • Leo C. Zulu
  • Frederick L. Bein
Article
  • 46 Downloads

Abstract

UN-Habitat projects Sub-Saharan Africa’s global share of the urban population to increase from 11.3% in 2010 to 20.2% by 2050. Yet little is documented about the underlying urbanization processes, particularly of emergence of small towns. This article uses household interviews, focus groups, observation, and secondary data to examine the spontaneous transformation of a western Sudanese village, Shubbola, into a small town. We use changes in building construction approach, materials, and style as an indicator of development and provide rare documentation of the process, the main actors, choices taken, timescales, and outcomes of the rapid urbanization of Shubbola between 2006 and 2013. Housing transformation was variable but involved a gradual process of replacing traditional non-durable building materials (wood and straw) with modern durable ones (sun- or fire-cured bricks, cement blocks, and metal roofs). Unlike traditional top-down models of urbanization generally driven by government investment, Shubbola epitomizes an organic, bottom-up process dependent on self-reliance and agriculture development fueled by remittances from urban-based relatives. While many small towns with similar origins fail to do so, Shubbola already provided important urban services to its inhabitants and surrounding rural areas. The study enhances understanding of small towns and underlying urbanization processes and their contribution to often neglected bottom-up, low-cost processes that do not fit traditional top-down models. It also contributes to literature and policy on sustainable cities and their role in sustainable development as encapsulated in UN Sustainable Development Goal 11. The study contributes to understanding the processes and implications of rapid urbanization in the Sudan and Africa and other world regions.

Keywords

Urbanization Transformation Village Small town Sudan Shubbola 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the people of Shubbola and our research assistant Mirgahani Awad Bashir for their hospitality and help while the lead author is in the field. We thank Dana Reimer for her help. Part of his work was supported by the PSC-CUNY 40 Research Award Program at Hunter College of the City University of New York.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mohamed Babiker Ibrahim
    • 1
  • Leo C. Zulu
    • 2
  • Frederick L. Bein
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of GeographyHunter College of the City University of New YorkNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial SciencesMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  3. 3.Department of GeographyIndiana University-Purdue UniversityIndianapolisUSA

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