The urban population has also increased rapidly in Bolivia over the past 30 years – from 30 per cent of the total population in 1976 to nearly 75 per cent today. In both countries, a steady growth of population in larger urban centres is coupled with a more rapid population growth of small and medium-sized towns, expanding along road corridors.

Tapping the development potential

Helvetas focuses its urban engagement on small and medium-sized towns. In many developing contexts, a significant and growing proportion of the population live in such towns, which also provide vital services and markets for those living in the surrounding rural areas. With adequate investment and political authority, small and medium-sized towns have the potential to promote a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable approach to regional development – an approach which also has the potential to target the poorest and most marginalised.

However, small and medium-sized towns have tended to receive little policy attention or funding from development agencies, and struggle attracting investment from the private sector.