Document Type



East African Institute


Background and rationale: Africa is experiencing a surge of investment in new development corridors, which are networks of transport infrastructure intended to open isolated parts of the continent for investment and socio-economic development. Proponents of development corridors – including governments, bilateral development agencies and multilateral development banks – present these massive infrastructure projects as a solution to the obstacles created by uneven development. Development corridors are promoted as a way of correcting the spatial disparities that exist between different regions as they are promised to intensify agricultural and industrial production, increase economic diversification, create new employment opportunities and improve access to social services in disconnected and often disenfranchised rural areas. Yet, despite claims that development corridors benefit rural areas and the livelihoods that these regions support, there have been few efforts to assess the impacts of development corridors from a rural livelihoods perspective. The lack of evidence around the impacts that new development corridors have on different rural livelihoods is problematic, given the rapid pace of transport infrastructure development across Africa. In response to this research gap, this study collected empirical evidence of how East Africa’s new development corridors are affecting rural livelihoods by focusing on the Lamu Port–South Sudan–Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) Corridor and the Central Corridor. This report documents the rural livelihood impacts of both corridors, detailing the opportunities and challenges experienced by rural producers throughout various stages of corridor development (inception, implementation and operation). The goal of this report is to highlight the experiences and perceptions of rural producers along new corridor routes. Based on the evidence collected through this research, the report also offers recommendations for preventing and mitigating the adverse impacts that development corridors have on rural livelihoods.

Study sites and participants: In Kenya, research on LAPSSET focused on a newly completed highway between Isiolo Town, Isiolo County, and Moyale Town, Marsabit County. In Tanzania, research on the Central Corridor focused on a partially completed road between Manyoni Town, Singida Region, and Tabora Town, Tabora Region (see Figure 1). These study areas were selected for their ability to generate comparable insights into how corridors at similar stages of development impact different livelihoods among the rural communities they pass through. The research methods were qualitative, including key informant interviews, focus group discussions and a Policy Delphi process. Participants included representatives from local communities along corridor routes, all levels of government and local and international nongovernmental organisations. Archival analysis, document analysis and observations were also used to supplement data collected during interviews and focus group discussions. In total, 255 people participated in this study, including 43 key informants, 167 focus group discussion participants and 45 experts involved in the Policy Delphi process. This research was carried out over a 12-month period between July 2017 and July 2018.

Research findings: The evidence in this study provides important insights into the opportunities and challenges that East Africa’s new development corridors create for rural livelihoods. It does so by detailing the unique opportunities and challenges associated with each phase of corridor development.

Recommendations: Based on these findings, this document identifies possible areas of intervention. These areas of intervention are informed by participants in the study and by a Policy Delphi process that was used to verify study’s findings. Recommendations are organised according to the three phases of corridor development.