In the past ten years, increasing attention has been focused on what are variously termed small cities, secondary cities, and intermediate cities in Africa and elsewhere in the Third World. A number of conferences and workshops have been held, and research projects generated. The first of these seems to have been the 1978 Madison, Wisconsin conference on the role of small urban centers in rural development in Africa (Southall, 1979). In addition, the International Institute for Environment and Development organized a comparative research project on the role of small and intermediate urban centers in development (Hardoy and Sattherthwaite, forthcoming); the United National Center for Regional Development sponsored a similarly-titled effort, with case studies of twelve small towns and intermediate cities in seven developing countries (UNCRD, 1983); the Asian Institute of Technology organized a conference on small towns in national development (Kammeier and Swan, 1984) while the East-West Population Center had a conference on intermediate cities in Asia (Fawcett et al., 1980). The East-West Center conference, like the Madison conference, focused on one specific region—in this case, Asia—whereas the other projects included cases from Africa, Asia and Latin America. In the same period, government and international agencies, most notably the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), planned projects in which ideas about systems of cities, and the role of secondary cities, have been central. (See Rondinelli, 1984 and, for a critical review of USAID's approach, Bromley, 1984a).
The major concern in these efforts has been the role of small and intermediate cities in development, and most have taken an approach based in urban and regional planning.