Cities and Migration: Partner Cities and Countries

The Cities and Migration programme is engaging in nine pilot cities that are witnessing similar types of migration dynamics in five countries – Ethiopia, Guatemala, Kenya, Tunisia, Uganda – across three regions (the Horn of Africa, Northern Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean). 

With varying degrees, most cities host involuntary migrants (both refugees and IDPs) due to conflict or environmental hazards such as droughts. There are high numbers of women and children seeking shelter and basic services, especially in cases of conflict. The largest migration dynamic of all remains rural-urban labour migration, which consists mostly of male youth, although there are more and more young women migrants.

This section looks at some of the partner cities and the issues they face with both voluntary and involuntary migrants.



Partner cities: Adama and Jigjiga 

Ethiopia is one of the least urbanised countries in the world. According to the 2007 census, 16 per cent of Ethiopians live in urban areas. However, Ethiopian secondary cities are large and growing fast, mainly due to rural-urban migration. 

Adama and Jigjiga demonstrate how quickly Ethiopia is now urbanising. Both cities attract youth in search of better income opportunities than in their rural environment. Even though Adama is a regional transport and conference centre, income opportunities cannot keep up with the number of new job seekers coming to the city every day. Many rural-urban migrants struggle to make ends meet. 

Both cities also receive a considerable number of highly vulnerable migrants. Many Ethiopians displaced by conflict, seasonal droughts, and floods seek shelter in the cities, which struggle to provide adequate support. 

Migration offers tangible opportunities, and Jigjiga is already leveraging it for local development. At the national level, Ethiopia has successfully started the Ethiopia Diaspora Trust Fund, which raised US $4 million in nine months. Jigjiga is the capital of the Somalia Region of Ethiopia, which is equally active in engaging its diaspora. The Somalia Regional Government Diaspora Affairs Bureau in Jigjiga established transfer accounts at the district level and raised a total of US$ 1 million for local social projects in eight months. 

There is scope to document and further expand this successful diaspora financing for local development in cooperation with Jigjiga University, and to share these experiences across Ethiopia and the other partner countries of the Cities and Migration programme.  

Adama: Improving the Reception, Management and Integration of Rural-Urban Migrants with a Registration Scheme, Resource Centre, Networking, and Infrastructure Development

Jigjiga: Diaspora Engagement for City Development: Institutionalising the Concept of Migration and Development into Plans and Actions



Partner cities in Kenya: The Kakuma-Kalobeyei Urban Cluster
“Refugees are an opportunity for Turkana” is a statement one hears frequently in this Kenyan county. Turkana County is one of the poorest areas of Kenya, with reports of 88 per cent of the population living below the poverty line (compared to 45 per cent at the national level). Longer, more frequent droughts make it harder for the people of Turkana to survive, and the land is arid to semi-arid and over-grazed. Gradually more rural people, particularly the youth, are turning to urban centres to find relief and work. 

After the county capital Lodwar, Kakuma is one of the largest urban areas with an estimated population of 46,000. Due to conflicts in the surrounding countries, Kakuma experienced a large influx of refugees, which have added substantially to its population growth. Kakuma now hosts 187,000 refugees – the second-largest population of refugees in Kenya after Dadaab. This growth enabled the governor of Turkana County to request city status for Kakuma-Kalobeye. 

The urban population growth, combined with the support of aid and development programmes, have brought economic opportunities to the region. Turkana now has 2,500 businesses and its local market is valued at least at US$ 56 million per year. In addition, hosting refugees has grown Turkana’s GDP by more than three per cent and increased local employment by three per cent, according to the World Bank and International Finance Corporation. 

While this growth is welcome, Turkana’s towns and villages rely heavily on the existence of the refugees and the humanitarian and development aid efforts. Additional local economic development efforts are needed to ease the dependency on international aid efforts and support a sustainable local economy that can continue to flourish when refugees return to their home countries.  

Another issue impacting development in the Kakuma and Turkana region is a low level of connectivity and networking within its system of towns. Connectivity is crucial to the development of secondary cities and regional towns to improve access to services, markets, trade, information and knowledge development. It is also an important component in expanding the business, education, trade, political and information network which supports local economic development, employment growth and investment. 

Kakuma-Kalobeyei: Sustainable Economic Development Along the Turkana West Development Corridor Through Enhanced Connectivity


Partner Cities in Uganda: Arua and Jinja 

The largest refugee-hosting country in Africa, Uganda has taken steps to formally address the issue of refugees in the country. The Refugees Act of 2006, followed by a series of regulations in 2010, provide protection and freedoms to refugees in the form of property rights, freedom of movement, the right to work, and the provision of services. The Ugandan government has also established a Comprehensive Refugee Resettlement Framework under the Office of the Prime Minister to ensure a coordinated approach to managing the refugee challenge.

Refugees in Uganda do not live in camps. After registering with the government, they live in settlements and are provided plots of land for agricultural use to achieve self-reliance. This policy extends to all refugees, regardless of ethnicity or country of origin. Many refugees, however, choose to bypass the registration process and go directly to urban areas, which receive no government support for services, infrastructure, or basic needs. 


Arua has been applauded for its open-door policy to the refugees from outside its borders, especially from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Rwanda, and Somalia. However, Arua has been overwhelmed by the sheer number of self-settled urban refugees, resulting in a deterioration of services.

Arua estimates that self-settled refugees make up 24 per cent of its total population. There is much goodwill towards the refugees, especially those from the DRC and South Sudan who belong to the same ethnic group, the Kakwa. Despite the visible goodwill towards refugees in Arua, however, more resources and planning are required to manage this large influx of refugees in a way that meets the basic needs of both the refugees and the host community. 

The influx of refugees has led to higher rents for housing, making it unaffordable for many low-income residents. The number of visitors to the city’s health centres increased from 600 to 1,080 per month, exhausting the stock of medications and vaccines. The number of medical staff remained the same. Diseases that had become uncommon in Arua have returned, and available medical supplies are not enough to meet the needs of the increased population. Supplies are distributed according to an area’s official population size, and without accurate data, the current formula does not include the refugee population residing in the municipalities. 

Arua: Strengthening Mechanisms for Receiving, Managing and Integrating Involuntary Migrants Within the Arua Municipal Council


Jinja city lacks an information base to enable it to plan and make well-informed and cost-effective policies and decisions on migration management and integration.” – Mr. Majid Batambuze, Mayor of Jinja, at the Cities Alliance regional peer-learning event in Bern, Switzerland, in September 2019

People from all backgrounds in Jinja have a shared memory of the city as an industrial centre, with people coming from all over Uganda to seek work in the factories. In the 1970s, the Ugandan government prioritised industrial development in Jinja due to its location at the source of the Nile hydro power production. When the government decided to allow industries to settle across Uganda, most relocated to Kampala, and Jinja’s industrial status declined drastically. Today, commerce is a vibrant sector in Jinja which provides formal and informal livelihoods to many long-term residents and rural-urban migrants. 

Re-industrialisation is a much more challenging task. The economy is weak, people have limited purchasing power, and taxes levied at the national and local level are high and complex.  The economy in Jinja is difficult for both employers and workers. Most of the city’s 3,000 industrial workers, who are primarily rural-urban migrants, are employed as daily wage workers – a situation that provides little job security. The city is interested in exploring other means of local economic development and investment, including tapping into an active community of Ugandan migrants in the United States with ties to the city. 

Jinja: Strengthening Capacity for Urban Migration Management and Improving Migrant Livelihoods in Jinja City, Uganda



Partner cities: Kairouan and Jendouba

Both Kairouan and Jendouba are secondary cities in the hinterlands of Tunisia, which over the years have received significantly less investment than the country’s coastal areas. These cities need economic reforms in order to create jobs and address growing social dissatisfaction, but the economic situation is challenging. 

The cities need to attract investors, but they cannot compete with the large coastal cities which benefited from greater state support over the last decades.  The government provides tax exemptions to industries that settle in secondary cities, but not many have come. As long as non-coastal secondary cities cannot offer comparable quality of life, services, education, and cultural activities, they will have trouble attracting large businesses and keeping workers in the city. 

Both Jendouba and Kairouan have experienced a major outmigration over the past decades as residents with capital and skills relocated to the attractive, vibrant coastal cities. However, the populations of both cities have remained roughly the same thanks to migrants from rural areas. 
The challenges that both Jendouba and Kairouan confront are immense and will require time and resources to be addressed. Priorities remain attracting investment, building local entrepreneurship, leveraging the skills of the former rural population, and efforts to increase the attractiveness of the cities as a place to live.

Jendouba and Kairouan: Promoting Responsible Tourism for Better Economic, Social and Cultural Integration of Migrants 



Partner cities: San Marcos and Amatitlán

Guatemala is one of the poorest and most unequal countries in Latin America. More than 40 per cent of Guatemala’s urban population lives in slums, while high levels of crime and violence impede the country’s development. Guatemala is currently 52 per cent urbanised, with an annual urban growth rate of 3.3 per cent driven by natural population growth and internal migration. 

Based on current trends, an urbanisation rate of 75 per cent is anticipated by 2032, adding more than six million inhabitants to the main urban centres. Of these residents, almost 40 per cent will be between 15 and 34 years old – creating a strong human resources asset to increase the work force and generate economic growth. 

Between 2000 to 2017, the number of Central American migrants nearly doubled, from 2.6 million to 4.3 million.  At the same time, secondary cities have grown significantly over the last decade and now represent between 15 and 65 per cent of the national urban system. According to official census figures, nearly two-thirds of the urban population growth over the last decade took place in Guatemala’s secondary cities. 

With current conditions, however, it is clear that Guatemala’s secondary cities cannot capitalise on the recent dynamics of diverse population flows: rural to urban, between cities, and both in and out of the country. Available data shows a significant outflow mainly to the United States –  2.3 million people, approximately 14 per cent of Guatemala’s current population. 

San Marcos and Amatitlán are both secondary cities that integrate urban agglomerations in geographically strategic locations. For different reasons, they are both affected by internal and external migration dynamics.

San Marcos is located in the north, close to the Mexican border. It is part of the “Mancuerna” consortium of cities, which face multiple challenges in fostering economic opportunities and overcoming social vulnerabilities and segregation that particularly affects the rural indigenous communities, from which many young migrants depart to national and international destinations. 

Amatitlán is in a different situation. It is a member of “Mancomunidad Ciudad der Sur” in the southern part of the large metropolitan area of Guatemala City. The municipality and its neighbours have been the recipients of both internal and international migration, including returnees that are not likely to return to their original areas. Through the the Municipal Council of Development, Amatitlán’s mechanism for governance and citizenship participation, key stakeholders are in the advanced stage of designing and approving a migration policy – demonstrating a high level of political will from both government and non-governmental organisations towards building more structured approaches to take advantage of the opportunities presented by migration.

Both San Marcos and Amatitlán host projects and initiatives of Cities Alliance partners and members in Guatemala, and they will be strategic to expanding our partnership among local stakeholders, including municipal governments.

Amatitlán: Amatitlán Includes You: Reception, Management and Integration of Labour Migrants in the City

San Marcos: Thriving in San Marcos - Prosperandos En San Marcos