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Sudan – Urban Issues

39.35 million1

Population (2014)

3,1%2

GDP Growth (2014)

167/1873

Inequality Adjusted Human Development Index (2014)

34%4

Urban Population of total population (2014)

2,1%5

Population growth rate (2014)

2,5%6

Urbanization growth rate

27%7

Urban population living in poverty

61%8

Access to improved drinking water

 

Urban Statistics

Although the population of Sudan has been growing at high rates (about 2.8% per annum on average during the past 20 years), its urban population has been growing at much higher rates (about double the natural population growth rate). Therefore, the proportion of urban population of the total population has always been on the rise. While that proportion amounted to 18.5% at the dawn of independence in 1955-1956 (i.e., the time of the first population census), it reached 29.8% in 2008 (the last population census), i.e. an increase of more than three times. However, these figures do not accurately reflect the intensity of the urbanization process in Sudan, with smaller, formally rural, settlements functioning de facto as part of larger urban centres or coalescing in denser patterns with urban attributes. The number of settlements that were classified as urban in the first census was 68. That number increased to 115 in 1983 (i.e., the third population census), and to 122 in 1993 (i.e., the fourth census) . This also illustrates the high urbanization tendency in Sudan.

Key Issues

The uncontested urban primacy illustrates the imbalanced urban growth in Sudan, and the tendency of rural areas and small towns to lose their population, especially the youth, the educated and the entrepreneurial to large cities. The increasing rate of urbanization in those cities, and others, obliged people to live on river banks and on the flooding zones of annual water courses that carry rain water from the hinterlands to the major rivers, such as the Nile and its tributaries. Most of those settlements are informal ones resulting from subdivision of agricultural lands or illegal occupation of what seems to be vacant lands. Absence of national urban development strategies precluded coordination of state urban development plans, and resulted in a lack of a comprehensive vision for land use and natural resource utilization.

Managing the rapid pace of urbanization in Sudan, illustrated above, rests on the following six pillars:

  1. Negotiating a peaceful resolution of the armed conflicts that force IDPs to leave their homelands and to seek refuge in urban areas.
  2. Establishing new towns and satellite cities to absorb new migrants and additional urban growth in large urban centers. For instance, the recent Khartoum Structure Plan (KPP5 – 2008-2033), which has been approved by the federal Council of Ministers, recommended the establishment of nine such satellite cities and set forth planning guidelines and estimated budgets for that purpose.
  3. Planning new housing areas as extensions to existing towns and cities and providing them with the necessary infrastructure and services to accommodate new urban growth.
  4. Addressing the negative ramifications of rapid urbanization, such as the growth of squatter settlements and proliferation of slum areas as a result of over-crowding, through urban upgrading programs.
  5. Maximizing governmental efforts, supported by multi-lateral, Arab and Islamic donors, geared towards improving housing and life in rural areas through provision of water sources, and development of building materials, that rural areas become attractive to their residents and offer them decent living conditions.
  6. Forging a balanced regional development so that each state provides its residents with all the services they need; and rejuvenating rural economies so as to reduce the attraction of large urban centers. All long-term strategies and short-to-medium term economic development plans that were formulated during the past years – at federal and state levels – have the objectives of achieving balanced regional development in all parts of Sudan.
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