From Reuters Alert Net writer Laurie Goering attended a presentation covering the new data.
Contrary to expectations, countries like Ivory Coast, Mali, Zambia and Central African Republic have seen periods in the last 20 years when more city dwellers have moved to rural areas than vice versa, said Deborah Potts, a Kings College London demographer who looks at urbanisation trends in sub-Saharan Africa.
In many parts of the region, “you have tremendous counter-movements out of the cities back to rural areas… because people are finding it really hard to find livelihoods that will sustain them in the cities,” she said during a presentation at the Chatham House think tank in London.
This outwards migration has slowed the expected rate of population growth in some African cities such as Lagos, Potts said. That could have important implications for urban planners and for national preparations to deal with climate change.
The lack of jobs in African cities may also challenge widely held assumptions that rural families hit by increasingly extreme weather will be able to adapt by moving to cities or sending family members to work there.
Farmers affected by worsening droughts may move to towns or cities, Potts said, but “there are no livelihood activities for them and if there are no such activities, they will just be refugees. That’s a different kind of urbanisation.”
In fact, faced with food shortages and weather disasters like flooding, African city dwellers may actually move - temporarily or permanently - to rural areas to try to cope, said Deborah Sporton, an Africa expert and human geography lecturer at Britain’s University of Sheffield.