Dr Cheikh Gueye holds a Ph.D. in Geography from Louis Pasteur University in Strasbourg. He has worked for more than twenty years as a researcher on the articulation between territories, cities, and societies (religions, identities, etc.) in Africa in the context of globalization.
He is currently researcher in charge of foresight and strategy at the Executive Secretariat of an international NGO called Environment and Development in action for the Third World (Enda Third World). He is the author of numerous publications, including books and articles in collective works. He notably published the book "Touba the capital of the Mourides" in Karthala (Paris) in December 2002, co edited the book Urban-rural : hybridization on the move in 2004, State of African cities, UNHABITAT in 2011, and the article "Dakar, Touba and the Senegalese cities network produced by climate change" in Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability (COSUST) Journal (COSUST-D-14-00077R1) in 2015. He has been member of the « Urbanization and Global Environmental Change » (UGEC) program steering committee.
Urban-Rural in Africa; between hybridization and open territories
Widespread urbanization remains one of the major events that have marked the world in the century that has just passed. Cities continue to be places of accumulation, concentrating and mixing more and more men and goods. In Africa, the urbanization rate has increased from less than 10 per cent to 35 per cent in the past 30 years, exceeding even the 50 per cent threshold in several countries. Growth rates do not weaken and the city's influence on its hinterland extends with space. Urban fronts are spreading into agricultural areas and generate problems for natural resource management and development. However, the city remains attractive and liveable, denying once again the cataclysmic predictions concerning its environment and its social movements.
The idea that the future of the city is not within it and in its reproduction but in its articulations with the rural environment is a major paradigmatic reversal that justifies the new interest of the social sciences in urban-rural relations. Uncertainty marks the research on the nature of what is invented between the two environments, new territories, neither completely urban, nor really rural and which seek an identity and a name.
The city can be considered as a set of social interactions and powers inscribed on a space and represented in their materiality and immateriality by the city dwellers. The villages also constitute a space, a theatre of stakes and evolutions. They modernize themselves on the spot by borrowing from the city its architectural ways, its types of layout, its materials, but especially its lifestyles, its activities, its cultures, while the city is more and more nostalgic for the countryside, its fauna, its flora and rediscovers its values and ideas.
However, increased mobility of people and increasingly dense flows have led to the gradual construction of specific functions in the context of interactions. The rural world has often specialised in supplying the city with basic foodstuffs. Secondary cities have mostly been constituted as relays and transition spaces between the two environments. Economic and/or political capitals are generally the major outlets for national flows of goods, but also the supply points for manufactured goods. Urban-rural relations are a recurrent theme in the social sciences which induces paradigmatic changes because of the transformations affecting each of these environments.
The countryside is no longer completely bowed to millenary traditions and jealous of its prerogatives by opposing the city represented as the place of modernity. The return of the city dwellers to the values of the "country", of the "region" declines the ethnicities and other legacies that the city welcomed at a given moment and which find themselves boosted in front of the crisis of reference points. As we move from cities to megacities, hasn't the urban become the tomb of civilization? But what civilization are we talking about? The uncertainties and the standardization of values also correspond to a standardization of spaces, the city welcoming entire villages (the village that goes to the city). The boundaries between the two environments and their own activities are increasingly uncertain (phenomena of urbanization of the countryside and ruralization of cities) and induce a de-spatialization of economic units and households.