Rural areas in many African countries are undergoing manifest transformation processes fuelled by dynamics such a population growth, urbanisation and increasing mobility. The relationship between rural and urban areas is changing and the rural-urban divide is fading, with increasing flows of people, goods and services between the two and the emergence of new migratory and livelihoods patterns. Next to the growth of capital and major cities, much of the urbanization witnessed in African countries has taken place in the continuum of rural areas with villages, towns and smaller cities below 500,000 inhabitants, fuelled in part by better infrastructure and digital connectivity as well as the search for economic opportunity. Rural towns and smaller cities have the potential to invigorate rural areas in their function as market hubs and basic service provision. Yet fulfilling such functions requires considerable investment and local institutional capacity as well as clear political commitment. Strengthening rural-urban linkages in terms of infrastructure, transport, market access and exchange of information, ideas and innovation can catalyse economic development in rural areas and provide future perspectives for rural population and especially youth. Rural development strategies should therefore consider some of the following opportunities: New income-generating opportunities in food systems as a result of changing urban consumption patterns Investing in towns and intermediary cities as hubs for economic growth and service delivery for rural areas Boosting agricultural productivity and attracting youth to farming Supporting job creation in the rural non-farm economy and enabling diversified and multi-local livelihood strategies
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