Periurban areas of growing cities in developing countries have been conceptualised as highly dynamic landscapes characterised by a mixture of socioeconomic structures, land uses and functions. While the body of conceptual literature on periurban areas has significantly increased over the past two decades, methods for operationalising these multi-dimensional concepts are rather limited. Yet, information about the location and areal extent of periurban areas is needed for integrated planning in the urban–rural interface. This article presents the results of a study aiming at classifying and mapping periurban areas along the urban–rural gradient of Tamale, a medium-sized city in Ghana. The study used a quantitative, multi-dimensional methodology involving the following as core elements: (1) a relative measure of how urban a place and its people are in terms of services, infrastructure and livelihoods (urbanicity index); (2) the diversity of households regarding their livelihoods and access to urban services; and (3) land use dynamics. Therefore, data from a household survey, as well as land use and other secondary geospatial data were collected and analysed at different spatial scales. The findings suggested that the periurban space consists of two main zones. Inner periurban areas are driven by urban expansion and the conversion of non-urban into urban land use is most visible here. These areas exhibit higher levels of socioeconomic diversity, compared to both rural and urban areas. Outer periurban areas are less dynamic in terms of land use change and exhibit lower building densities, and compared with rural areas, hold stronger links to the city related to the movement of people and goods. The spatial analysis revealed that periurban areas develop mainly along major transport corridors across administrative divisions, as well as in the form of periurban islands in the rural zone. This study set out to extend existing methodologies to map urban and periurban development in medium-sized cities in sub-Saharan Africa, useful for urban and regional planning beyond administrative boundaries.
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