Topic Guide: Building reciprocal rural-urban linkages through infrastructure investment and development

This is a guide for development practitioners


This document is designed to be a practical and analytical guide for development practitioners working to promote socially just, environmentally sustainable and resilient rural and urban development in rapidly urbanising low- and middle-income countries. It focuses specifically on Asia and Africa as the world’s two most rapidly urbanising continents, and promotes the mutual benefits available for both urban and rural areas that can be gained by promoting their positive interdependencies and linkages.

The Guide presents evidence from the literature and examples from practice where infrastructure has been used to build and harness reciprocal rural-urban linkages. It also shows how DFID has historically championed a nuanced perspective on the potential benefits of urbanisation beyond a narrow focus on built up urban areas. If revitalised, such perspective could have a significant impact on guiding future infrastructural interventions not only by DFID but also by other bilateral and multilateral development agencies.

Section 1 introduces the Guide – what and who it is for, who wrote it and how it is structured. Section 2 seeks to provide development practitioners with an understanding of the current trends, challenges and opportunities in urbanisation, both globally and in Africa and Asia specifically. Sections 3-5 aim to provide development practitioners with the advice and evidence required to promote the positive interdependencies between urban and rural development - otherwise referred to as reciprocal rural-urban linkages. This is split into sections focusing on ways to maximise and manage economic and development potential (3), physical growth and the sustainability of the natural resource base (4) and social inclusion and equality (5). Section 6 presents a number of case studies to show how a range of types of infrastructure, and the services they support, can help build reciprocal rural-urban linkages in practice. Section 7 concludes by discussing the centrality of local governance in infrastructure provision and service delivery, viewed through the lens of water and sanitation.

This peer reviewed Topic Guide has been produced by the Development Planning Unit at University College London (UCL) with the assistance of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) contracted through the Climate, Environment, Infrastructure and Livelihoods Professional Evidence and Applied Knowledge Services (CEIL PEAKS) programme, jointly managed by DAI (which incorporates HTSPE Limited) and IMC Worldwide Limited.


Allen, A.; Brown, D.; Dávila, J.D.; Hofmann, P. Topic Guide: Building reciprocal rural-urban linkages through infrastructure investment and development. Evidence on Demand, UK (2015) ix + 46 pp. [DOI: 10.12774/eod_tg.allenaetal]

Topic Guide: Building reciprocal rural-urban linkages through infrastructure investment and development

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