Written By: Dr. Florence Nisabwe, Director of Lance D ́Afrique International, South Africa & Burundi
An Overlooked Majority?
African cities are growing rapidly, but an estimated twothirds of African people still live in rural areas. In some African nations, the ratio of rural: urban dwellers are even higher. In Burundi, in central Africa, it’s almost 9:1 – which gives some idea of the importance of the countryside.
However, numbers alone aren’t always enough to ensure that politicians based in capital cities focus on their rural populations. Providing necessary infrastructure in rural areas is much harder than it is in cities, which can lead to rural people feeling that their needs are not being considered.
Many approaches have been taken to addressing this, but so far, no single proposed solution has proven to be universally successful or appropriate. This presents an opportunity (and a need) for a rethink, and in this article, I’ll propose social entrepreneurship as a viable alternative.
Rural populations are more widely distributed, so it can be more costly to deliver services to them. With less access to education and healthcare, people living in rural areas tend to experience higher unemployment (or to be engaged in less rewarding work), to have more health issues and more children, and hence face an uphill struggle in terms of improving their economic circumstances. Migration to the cities is perhaps the greatest challenge of all.
As rural areas are to an extent “out of sight, out of mind”, they tend to get less attention from leaders and policy makers. They may also be resented by urban dwellers if they feel that their city taxes are being used to subsidize the rural economy.
People in rural areas live closer to the edge when it comes to exposure to climate change and natural disasters such as flooding, which can destroy crops and livelihoods.
The main occupation for rural citizens is smallholder farming (out of necessity, as they need to sustain their families). However, this means that they generate relatively little