Research Report

On the periphery: Missing urbanisation in Zimbabwe


Zimbabwe’s 2012 census report suggests that notable de-urbanisation occurred between 2002 and 2012. Some external commentators have cited urban–rural migration and the Fast Track Land Reform Programme – jambanja – initiated in 2000 as the principal drivers of this phenomenon. During field research in the second half of 2016, I found that ordinary citizens and key informants – in politics, government and civil society – expressed bewilderment at suggestions that the country is de-urbanising. While the populations of the large cities appear to be growing slowly, if at all, unadjusted boundaries mean that the demographic growth associated with urban sprawl has not been captured. In-depth analysis also reveals rapid population growth in peri-urban areas that should be designated as urban, and in small and intermediate urban settlements. Overestimation of the urban populations, and the rate at which urbanisation levels are increasing in African countries, is a consistent feature of international organisation reports.1 But for Zimbabwe, underestimation seems to have occurred. While the rate of urbanisation may have slowed, the extent of the slowdown appears exaggerated and it is likely to be reversed when boundary changes are made. It is not inconceivable that Zimbabwe could still be majority urban by 2050.

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Mbiba, Beacon

Oxford Brookes departments

School of the Built Environment


Year of publication: 2017
Date of RADAR deposit: 2020-12-14

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