Khartoum, Sudan

by Dr. Galal Eldin Eltayeb


Rapid, unorganised, sometimes unauthorised urban growth (urban sprawl) has become a prominent feature of developing countries, and the Sudan is no exception. This urban growth is generally measured by increases in area and density more than by functional development. Rural mass exodus to Sudanese urban centres is attributed mainly to geographically and socially uneven development and the concomitant depression of rural ecosystems and communities, the long civil war and armed conflicts, natural disasters like drought and famine, and the failure of government economic policies. The number of displaced people has been estimated by the Commission for Relief and Rehabilitation at 4,104,970 of whom 1.8 million are in Greater Khartoum (El Battahani et al, 1998: 42-3) and about 2 million others are in other urban centres.

National governments adopted, to varying degrees, a policy of self-reliance. Weak infrastructure development encouraged the concentration of industries, services and administration in already existing towns. The urban process gained momentum thereafter. The urban population in 1993 was more than 7 times its size in 1955 and will be more than 12 times that size by the end of 2002, while the total population in 1993 was less than 3 times its 1955 size. In terms of general socio-economic development, the vast area of the country and transport difficulties have encouraged the emergence and subsequent growth of regional and local urban centres. Variations in the rate of growth reflect the general urbanisation trend and, more importantly, the regional and local factors pertaining to population displacement, eg natural hazards in the east and west, famine in the east, south and west, and war and armed tribal conflicts in the south and west. In their quest to achieve socio–economic development, national governments have since independence resorted to short-term planning. The various plans aimed at the expansion and intensification of agriculture, import-substitution industrialisation, building of the infrastructure and provision of basic services. Only limited success was achieved. The present regime has striven for the reorganisation of economy and society on Islamic principles and values, and the general situation has worsened.

The current socio-economic situation is affected mainly by the globalisation process and the liberalisation policies now adopted. The major impacts of these external and internal factors may be summarised as follows (Eltayeb, 2001: 2-3):

The economic embargo has sharply reduced the inflow of aid and loans.

Indebtedness and the burden of debt services and repayment of loans.

The Islamist, totalitarian regime has given birth to political instability not conducive to development.

Natural disasters, eg drought and desertification, have reduced productivity.

The long-lived civil war depletes the already meagre assets and resources.

The civil service has been significantly weakened because appointment and promotion have become political commitments and are not made on the basis of qualifications and competence.

Decentralisation without adequate resources has significantly increased taxes and fees levied by regional governments on already poor communities.

The collapse of many enterprises because of their weak competitiveness.

Increasing gaps between imports and exports due to heavy dependence on primary exports.

Galloping inflation rates (101 per cent in 1995) result in lower real incomes.

Privatisation has increased unemployment.

Government has seriously cut back public expenditure on basic services.

The discovery and export of oil have improved transport but not the living conditions of the people.

This summary has been extracted from:

UN-Habitat (2003) Global Report on Human Settlements 2003, The Challenge of Slums, Earthscan, London; Part IV: 'Summary of City Case Studies', pp195-228.

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2003 Development Planning Unit | Anna Soave | Khanh Tran-Thanh