The European Journal of Development Research

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 72–94 | Cite as

Urbanisation in Rural Regions: The Emergence of Urban Centres in Tanzania

  • Evelyne Lazaro
  • Jytte AgergaardEmail author
  • Marianne Nylandsted Larsen
  • Jeremia Makindara
  • Torben Birch-Thomsen
Special Issue Article


This paper focusses on urbanisation in rural regions of Africa, and in particular on the type of settlement growth that occurs not in proximity to, but rather disassociated from, existing urban centres. What characterises such settlements is that they are generally not acknowledged as urban entities, but are involved in an administrative process in which they form part of a larger entity that is about to be given urban administrative status; to capture this process, the concept of emerging urban centres is suggested. The empirical analysis focusses on how rural Tanzania is urbanising. By comparing four different growth trajectories, it is illustrated how settlement growth varies due to different pre-conditions and due to specific dynamics of crop value chains. It is also shown how migration to the settlements and the establishment of businesses are part of this growth and gradually occur detached from the crop value-chain dynamics. In conclusion, it is identified how these developments produce challenges to existing governance systems, and finally it is discussed how the findings provide new insights into debates on rural transformation and the fuzzy distinction between rurality and urbanity.


Urbanisation in rural regions Settlement growth Agricultural value-chain dynamics Migration Tanzania 


L'article se concentre sur le processus d'urbanisation dans les régions rurales en Afrique. Il se concentre sur le type de croissance des agglomérations, qui ne se produit pas à proximité, mais plutôt de façon dissociée, des centres urbains existants. Ce qui caractérise ces agglomérations, c'est qu'elles ne sont généralement pas reconnues comme des entités urbaines, mais sont impliquées dans un processus administratif dans lequel elles font partie d'une entité plus vaste sur le point de se voir attribuer un statut administratif urbain et pour refléter ce processus, le concept de centres urbains émergents (CUE) est suggéré. L'analyse empirique porte sur le processus d'urbanisation de la Tanzanie rurale. En comparant quatre trajectoires de croissance différentes, nous montrons comment la croissance des agglomérations varie en raison de conditions préalables différentes et de la dynamique spécifique des chaînes de valeur des cultures. Nous montrons également que la migration vers ces agglomérations et la création d'entreprises font partie de cette croissance et se produisent peu à peu, indépendamment de la chaîne de valeur des cultures. En conclusion, il a été déterminé que ces évolutions posaient des problèmes aux systèmes de gouvernance existants et, enfin, nous échangeons sur la façon dont les résultats ont permis de mieux éclairer les débats sur la transformation rurale et la distinction floue entre ruralité et urbanité.



This work was supported by the Consultative Research Committee for Development Research under the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs under grant no. 09-P11-Tanzania. This research was a component of the research project ‘Rural–Urban Complementarities for the Reduction of Poverty (RUCROP): Identifying the Contribution of Savings and Credit Facilities’. Further insights on governance aspects were obtained through a research project ‘Rural–Urban Transformation (RUT): Economic Dynamics, Mobility and Governance of Emerging Urban Centers for Poverty Reduction’ under grant no. 13-P02-TAN. The project is coordinated through the School of Agricultural Economics and Business Studies, Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania and implemented in partnership with the Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, Section for Geography, University of Copenhagen. We would like to thank the research participants in the four study sites.


  1. Beegle, K., J. De Weerdt, and S. Dercon. 2011. Migration and economic mobility in Tanzania: Evidence from a tracking survey. Review of Economics and Statistics 93 (3): 1010–1033. Scholar
  2. Berdegué, J.A., F. Carriazo, B. Jara, F. Modrego, and I. Soloaga. 2015. Cities, territories, and inclusive growth: Unraveling urban–rural linkages in Chile, Colombia, and Mexico. World Development 73: 56–71. Scholar
  3. Berdegué, J.A., T. Rosada, and A.J. Bebbington. 2014. The rural transformation. In International development: Ideas, experience, and prospects, ed. B. Currie-Alder, R. Kanbur, D.M. Malone, and R. Medhora. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Brenner, N., and C. Schmid. 2015. Towards a new epistemology of the urban? City 19 (2–3): 151–182. Scholar
  5. Bryceson, D.F. 1999. African rural labour, income diversification & livelihood approaches: A long-term development perspective. Review of African Political Economy 26 (80): 171–189. Scholar
  6. Bryceson, D.F. 2011. Birth of a market town in Tanzania: Towards narrative studies of urban Africa. Journal of Eastern African Studies 5 (2): 274–293. Scholar
  7. Christiaensen, L., and Y. Todo. 2014. Poverty reduction during the rural–urban transformation—The role of the missing middle. World Development 63 (November): 43–58. Scholar
  8. Cooksey, B. 2011. Marketing reform? The rise and fall of agricultural liberalisation in Tanzania. Development Policy Review 29 (1): 57–81. Scholar
  9. Curiel, R. P., P. Heinrigs, and I. Heo. 2017. Cities and spatial interactions in West Africa. Washington, DC: OECD Publishing.
  10. De Weerdt, J. 2010. Moving out of poverty in Tanzania: Evidence from Kagera. The Journal of Development Studies 46 (2): 331–349. Scholar
  11. De Weerdt, J., and K. Hirvonen. 2016. Risk sharing and internal migration. Economic Development and Cultural Change 65 (1): 63–86. Scholar
  12. Fold, N., and C. Tacoli. 2010. Agricultural frontier settlements: Markets, livelihood diversification and small town development. In Rural-urban dynamics: Livelihoods, mobility and markets in African and Asian frontiers, ed. J. Agergaard, K.V. Gough, and N. Fold, 90–98. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. Fox, S., R. Bloch, and J. Monroy. 2018. Understanding the dynamics of Nigeria’s urban transition: A refutation of the ‘stalled urbanisation’ hypothesis. Urban Studies 55 (5): 947–964. Scholar
  14. Guin, D. 2018. From large villages to small towns: A study of rural transformation in new census towns, India. International Journal of Rural Management 14 (2): 1–23. Scholar
  15. Haggblade, S., P.B. Hazell, and T. Reardon. 2007. Transforming the rural nonfarm economy: Opportunities and threats in the developing world. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute.Google Scholar
  16. Haggblade, S., P. Hazell, and T. Reardon. 2010. The rural non-farm economy: Prospects for growth and poverty reduction. World Development 38 (10): 1429–1441. Scholar
  17. Hazell, P., S. Haggblade, and T. Reardon. 2007. Structural transformation of the rural nonfarm economy. In Transforming the rural nonfarm economy: Opportunities and threats in the developing world, ed. S. Haggblade, P.B. Hazell, and T. Reardon, 83. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute.Google Scholar
  18. Kelly, P.F. 2011. Migration, agrarian transition, and rural change in Southeast Asia: Introduction. Critical Asian Studies 43 (4): 479–506. Scholar
  19. Knudsen, M.H. 2010. Small town development in the Ghanaian cocoa frontier. In Rural-urban dynamics. Livelihoods, mobility and markets in African and Asian frontiers, ed. J. Agergaard, N. Fold, and K.V. Gough, 43–60. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  20. Knudsen, M.H., and J. Agergaard. 2015. Ghana’s cocoa frontier in transition: The role of migration and livelihood diversification. Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography 97 (4): 325–342. Scholar
  21. Larsen, M.N., and T. Birch-Thomsen. 2015. The role of credit facilities and investment practices in rural Tanzania: A comparative study of Igowole and Ilula emerging urban centres. Journal of Eastern African Studies 9 (1): 55–73. Scholar
  22. Larsen, M. N., and N. Fold. 2012. Privatization and regional economic dynamics: A comparative study of tea and sugar dominated regions in Tanzania. Paper presented at the The XIII World Congress of Rural Sociology, Lisbon, Portugal.Google Scholar
  23. Larsen, M.N., and P.M. Nsimbila. 2017. Coordination and upgrading in agricultural value chains. In Contract farming and the development of smallholder agricultural businesses: Improving markets and value chains in Tanzania, ed. J.A. Kuzilwa, N. Fold, A. Henningsen, and M.N. Larsen, 107–125. London: Routledge, Earthscan Food and Agriculture.Google Scholar
  24. Lazaro, E., and T. Birch-Thomsen. 2013. Rural-urban complementarities for the reduction of poverty: Identifying the contribution of savings and credit facilities. ResearchGate. Scholar
  25. McGranahan, G., and D. Satterthwaite. 2014. Urbanisation concepts and trends. London: IIED.Google Scholar
  26. Msuya, J., E. Lazaro, J. Agergaard, N.Fold, D. Mushi, and Z. Lumole. 2012. Madizini emerging urban centre. Paper presented at the The RUCROP Stakeholders’ Workshop, 20 August 2012, Mikumi, Morogoro, Tanzania.Google Scholar
  27. Mukhopadhyay, P., M.-H. Zerah, and E. Denis. 2017. Subaltern urbanization revisited. India International Centre Quarterly 43 (3&4): 26–41.Google Scholar
  28. Muzzini, E., and W. Lindeboom. 2008. The urban transition in Tanzania. Building the empirical base for policy dialogue. Washington, DC: World Bank.Google Scholar
  29. Owusu, G. 2005. Small towns in Ghana: Justifications for their promotion under Ghana’s decentralisation programme. African Studies Quarterly 8 (2): 48–69.Google Scholar
  30. Ponte, S. 2002. Farmers & markets in Tanzania: How policy reforms affect rural livelihoods in Africa. London: James Currey Ltd.Google Scholar
  31. Roy, A. 2016. What is urban about critical urban theory? Urban Geography 37 (6): 810–823. Scholar
  32. Satterthwaite, D. 2010. Urban myths and the mis-use of data that underpin them. Working Paper No. 2010/28.Google Scholar
  33. Steel, G., and P. van Lindert. 2017. Rural livelihood transformations and local development in Cameroon, Ghana and Tanzania. London: International Institute for Environment and Development.Google Scholar
  34. Tacoli, C. 2003. The links between urban and rural development. Environment and Urbanization 15 (1): 3–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Wisner, B., M. Pelling, A. Mascarenhas, A. Holloway, B. Ndong, P. Faye, et al. 2015. Small cities and towns in Africa: Insights into adaptation challenges and potentials. In Urban vulnerability and climate change in Africa, ed. S. Pauleit et al., 153–196. Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Agricultural Economics and Business StudiesSokoine University of AgricultureMorogoroTanzania
  2. 2.Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, Section for GeographyUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

Personalised recommendations