HPG (2009). Urbanisation in Sudan - Concept note for a study for DFID
Download this report
Urbanisation is taking place at a rapid pace within Sudan. Although the trend is not new, the pace appears to be accelerating. For a country of its size, Sudan has relatively few cities; therefore the population drift from rural areas is focused on a small number of urban centres. Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, has grown particularly fast – by a factor of eight between 1973 and 2005 (an average annual growth rate of over 6%)1. Khartoum now has a population of over 5 million. Figures from the recent population census in Sudan have not yet been officially released, which limits knowledge about the pace and scale of urbanisation elsewhere. Nevertheless, it is widely believed that the population of Juba has risen two to three-fold since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005, to a population of around 750,0002. Meanwhile during the six years of Darfur’s conflict, Nyala’s population has swelled three times to 1.5 million, taking account of the large numbers of displaced that have gathered in and around Darfur’s largest town.
The phenomenon of rapid urbanisation is widespread in Sub-Saharan Africa (and elsewhere). It is estimated that within two decades more than half of the population of
Sub-Saharan Africa (currently the world’s most rural region) will be living in urban areas. The reasons for rapid urbanisation in Sudan are similar to other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, but some appear to be particularly acute in the Sudan case (eg displacement).
(1) displacement from rural to urban areas due to long-running conflict, which has
become permanent urban settlement for many (and continued insecurity in
rural areas despite the signing of the CPA)
(2) drought and rural poverty weakening and destroying rural livelihoods
(3) mechanized agricultural schemes taking land from traditional farming
(4) wealth, economic growth and service provision concentrated in the main
urban areas, especially in Central Sudan.