New Connections – New Dependencies: Spatial and Digital Flows in Sub-Saharan African Livelihoods

in Livelihoods and Development
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This chapter examines how multi-locality and digital rural–city connections impact on livelihood transformation in sub-Saharan Africa. Drawing on empirical cases from Cameroon, Rwanda and Sudan, the chapter addresses the way rural- and urban-oriented households use physical and digital connections as a livelihood asset and as a strategy for achieving socio-economic stability and improvement. It is argued that because of new and intensifying forms of connections, livelihoods are becoming more diverse in terms of activity, spatially and temporality. Socio-economic scope and spatial organisation of livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa are increasingly characterised by multi-local arrangements across sectors and spaces. Mobility is considered a resource that is differently accessed and experienced. It may also have disruptive effects by putting pressure on family labour in rural livelihoods. In this way, mobility and immobility are regarded as interrelated instead of unconnected opposites. Digital connections and mobile phones facilitate the maintenance of social and economic relationships and networks without people needing to be physically mobile. Yet, not every individual or household has equal access to mobile phones and digital connectivity. This results in information asymmetries and related negative consequences for livelihood dynamics. There is a real threat that the new connections between rural and urban areas create new dependencies and new exclusions.

Livelihoods and Development

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