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Government Measures Aimed at Curbing Rural-to-Urban Migration in Africa

Updated on May 24, 2016

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Migration is the movement of people from one place to another due to various motivations such as search of employment, educational facilities e.t.c. Excessive rural to urban migration has led to negative impacts on African countries overall development as it has led to the growth of slums, unemployment e.t.c. The costs associated with rural-urban migration often outweigh the benefits, leading to excessive urbanization. This paper therefore discusses the measures that governments in Africa can take to curb this trend.

Government Measures Aimed at Reducing Rural-to-Urban Migration

  1. 1. Improvement of the rural subsistence sector

African governments should take measures to improve the subsistence sector, so as to raise rural incomes and reduce the rural to urban gap. The first step to improve the economic performance of this sector is the introduction of new forms of village organization. At the moment villages in some African countries are widely scattered vast areas and in most cases too small to form viable economic units. They should regrouped into larger units to facilitate easy delivery of infrastructure, agricultural inputs, and other services. This form of organization should be based on cooperative effort and self management. The new units should be established in areas with high agricultural potential. (Moses.L. 1967)

  1. 2. Establishment of basic social and economic Infrastructure

This involves the construction of feeder roads to ease the transport of agricultural raw materials to processing industries, construction of schools and medical services in rural areas. In addition to this, agricultural extension services should be developed and provided in rural areas. (Moses.L. 1967)

  1. 3. Provision of credit facilities

There should be provision of credit facilities in rural areas. The existing agricultural financing organizations should devote most of their resources to finance new rural production units. To ensure that rural production is properly marketed, there is a need to establish effective marketing organizations possibly on a cooperative basis to distribute inputs such as seeds, fertilizers and equipments and to buy the produce. (Moses.L. 1967)

  1. 4. Decentralization

Because national governments find it increasingly difficult to meet the great variety of needs and demands for public goods and services by population groups across the country, it is privatizing the delivery of some goods and services and it is decentralizing some national government function to local governments in urban and rural areas. After decentralization, local communities can better articulate their needs and demands, and local governments are, at least in principle, in a better position to meet those demands. Local governments and communities can take many more decisions on their own, and adapt development policies and programs for urban and rural areas to suit the specific needs of the population.

Decentralization gives local governments and communities more control over their situation and bureaucrats in far-away capitals will no longer take decisions that directly affect the lives and livelihoods of populations in small towns, villages and rural areas. This gives rural communities more opportunities to pursue their own interests and to decide on their own development path, and thereby creates a more balanced relationship between urban and rural areas and a more level playing field for rural communities. This does not mean, however, that the relationship is completely balanced and that there is no urban bias in the political relationship between the rural areas and the national centre, which is almost by definition urban-based. (Bajracharya, Bhishna Nanda 1995)

The ability to take decisions and make plans for development does not come naturally, but needs to be learned. Capacity building of local governments and communities in urban and rural areas is critical to make decentralization work. Good governance is particularly important in this respect. Good governance means that decision-making is participatory and inclusive and that the implementation of the decisions is effective and efficient. It means that there is particular attention for the needs of the poor and that the (environmental) needs of future generations are taken into account. (Bajracharya, Bhishna Nanda 1995)

  1. 5. Market economies

Market economies based on free market principles have resulted to some governments in the African region opening the economies of their countries to the global economy through trade and investment liberalization. Such policies can have a significant impact on rural-urban linkages in the countries concerned. Free-market policies should result in a more balanced relationship between urban and rural areas through the removal of subsidies that benefit the population in the urban areas at the expense of producers of agricultural products in the rural areas. Free-market policies should improve the terms of trade for the rural areas vis-à-vis the urban areas. (Bajracharya, Bhishna Nanda 1995)

The opening of the domestic markets to the global economy lead to the improvement of transport and communication networks and this means that goods and services from the villages and the rural areas can reach the global markets more easily, but also that goods and services from the global market can reach the villages and the rural areas and compete with local products. (Bajracharya, Bhishna Nanda 1995)

  1. 6. Promotion of non-farm income sectors in rural areas

Recent research points out that the non-farm sector is already an important source of income to rural households, and that different types of activities appear to be of differing relevance to the poor. Agricultural wage labor and non-agricultural casual wage labor comprise an important source of income to the poorest quintiles, while nonagricultural regular employment is associated with the richest quintiles. Self-employment appears particularly important to the middle quintiles. This pattern suggests that the non-farm sector can potentially function as both a route out of poverty and as a safety net, preventing the poor from falling deeper into poverty and in the long term engaging in rural to urban migration. (Bajracharya, Bhishna Nanda 1995)

  1. 7. Local economic development

Economic development in small towns can have a positive impact on the economy of the surrounding rural areas, if the increase in purchasing power results in the purchase of agricultural and non-agricultural products from the surrounding rural areas. This will obviously depend on the types of products produced, their quality and cost and their competitiveness compared to products from other parts of the country. The development of the local urban economy may also lead to a reduction in rural-urban migration to the larger urban centers and the city and redirect migration flows to smaller towns in rural areas. (Bajracharya, Bhishna Nanda 1995)

  1. 8. Urban service centers for rural areas

One of the main aspects of rural poverty is the lack of access to basic infrastructure and services, such as roads, communication infrastructure, health care, credit, education, and market information. Governments tend to develop infrastructure and provide services initially in the urban areas only, because of their economies of scale. The scattered settlement pattern of the rural areas renders the provision of infrastructure and services too expensive. Urban center are expected to play a role as service centers for the rural areas. Towns and secondary cities, therefore, require more investments in infrastructure and services for both the growing urban population and the population in the surrounding rural areas However, small towns are also actual or potential destination for rural-urban migration. If they are destination for rural-urban migration, they need improved urban infrastructure and services in order to reduce urban poverty. If they do not serve as destinations for rural-urban migration and are by-passed by migrants who move directly to the city, the development of urban infrastructure and services could help to redirect migration flows to smaller towns in rural areas rather than larger urban areas. (Bajracharya, Bhishna Nanda 1995)

It is important to see which infrastructure and services can be decentralized from urban centers and which have to be provided locally in the rural areas. The recent developments in the information and communication technology (ICT) are creating new opportunities for the delivery of services in remote areas. However, it is important to understand that ICT is only a vehicle for information and that the relevance of the information for the user is the more important aspect. This applies not only to ICT, but also to other kinds of infrastructure and services. (Bajracharya, Bhishna Nanda 1995)

  1. 9. Poverty reduction strategies

Policies that target poverty alleviation influence rural-urban migration. According to recent research, the South African government has taken significant measures in order to improve education, access to basic services and sanitation, and access to health services for the poor in rural areas. This strategy has four components namely: (Richard U. 2001)

  • Expand employment and income earning opportunities:

The majority of the poor in South Africa are found in the rural areas. Policies promoting rural development, establishing micro-enterprises, developing microfinance, and improving road infrastructure, are expected to decrease rural-urban migration by improving the standard of living of people living in the rural areas. (Richard U. 2001)

  • Developing productive capacity:

Developing productive capacity is synonymous to developing people’s capacity by addressing health, education, sanitation and housing. (Richard U. 2001)

  • Increase security and participation:

Protection of the elderly and vulnerability of young people is greatly considered. Property rights and land tenure are also considered. Securing property rights, especially in rural areas, would reduce rural-urban migration. In South Africa many rural people still do not have titles to their land. People would feel secure if they knew that their land legally belonged to them. They would be more productive which would lead to creation of rural employment opportunities. The more opportunities that are available in the rural areas, the less migration there would be to the cities. (Richard U. 2001)

  • Promote participation and social integration:

This policy is intended to increase the participation of the majority of people in decision making, with a special focus on ethnic minorities. (Richard U. 2001)


This paper shows that infrastructure development in rural areas as well as linking urban and rural areas is one of the core elements of rural poverty alleviation. Nowadays, poverty is understood as a condition that has three related aspects: “income poverty”, “access poverty” and “power poverty”. The alleviation of income poverty can only be sustainable, if the poor themselves initiate and sustain the income-generating activity. However, in order to be able to seize the economic opportunity, the poor need access to essential infrastructure and services and a supportive environment that includes pro-poor laws and regulations. The participation of the rural area population in decision-making that directly affects their lives and livelihoods is necessary to bring about this supportive environment for rural area development. Therefore, capacity building of all stake holders needs to accompany the provision of infrastructure and services in the rural areas and in the small urban centers and between the rural areas and the urban centers. Farmers and other rural producers need to develop products that can compete in the open market in terms of price and quality as well as an entrepreneurial attitude. Small and medium sized enterprises involved in trading or processing of products in the urban centers need to be able to compete in the market, and local governments need to create an economic environment in which the enterprises in rural areas can prosper to reduce rural urban migration. (Bajracharya, Bhishna Nanda 1995)


  1. Richard U. 2001, Review of Development Economics. Oxford Press. U.S.A
  2. Bajracharya, Bhishna Nanda 1995, Promoting small towns for rural development: A view from Nepal, Asia-Pacific Population Journal, Vol.10. India.
  3. Moses.L. 1967 Rationality and Migration in Ghana: Review of Economics and Statistics. Ghana.


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    • pramodgokhale profile image

      pramodgokhale 22 months ago from Pune( India)


      This migration fro rural to urban is pride matter in India.They call this social mobility, to some extent it is true because people settled in cities and their next generation was beneficiary .Cities are getting overburdened and services like power supply and water are inadequate. crimes are on rise.

      Rural India is agro based and agriculture is livelihood for them. Small towns can be built.

      India, plural giant nation is struggling to cope with new pace of growth but underprivileged did not get to development



    • nancy karimi 9 months ago

      The best way of curbing rural- urban migration is ensuring development in the rural areas because people move to urban areas due to lack of adequate facilities in the rural areas. thankyou.

    • Janet Kirui 5 months ago

      Well researched info.

    • Siranga Rodgers 2 months ago

      The greater portion of the urban migrants comprises of the scholars which join universities and colleges on yearly basis but rarely go back on completion of their term. Consequently, the pupoulation bulges all year round. To curb this, the schools in the village and secondary towns should be upgraded as well as the infrastructure around them. Poverty has been there since time immemorial but it's a bit of personal initiative for its end. Thank you.

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