Development corridors

What is a development corridor?
A development corridor is a geographical area identified as a priority for investment to catalyse economic growth and development. This is usually through the creation of infrastructure such as railways or pipelines. They can be designed to attract new investments, boost agricultural production, open access to natural resources and facilitate their export to world markets.


Although not a new phenomenon, interest in development corridors has escalated over the past decade. On nearly every continent they are crossing international borders, expanding over many hundreds of kilometres and penetrating into ever remoter areas.

Planned and existing development corridors (red lines) and protected areas (green polygons) in Africa. Sources: Laurence et al. 2016, UNEP-WCMC and IUCN 2019.

The diagram below shows the potential evolution of a development corridor according to Hope and Cox (2015). Transport corridors link economic ‘nodes’ such as cities with gateways (e.g. airports and ports). Basic transport corridors may only have one mode of transport, or develop into multi-modal corridors. A corridor becomes a ‘logistics corridor’ through implementing technological and legal conditions such as trade customs or transnational legislation. ‘Economic corridors’ attract investment and drive economic growth, but this can only be achieved once the transport and logistics are in place.

The evolution of a development corridor. Source: Hope and Cox 2015.

Development corridors have the potential to deliver major socio-economic benefits, but can also result in serious negative impacts on nature and people if poorly designed and implemented.


Development corridors have the potential to diversify and improve livelihoods by making trade, communications and services more efficient. They can also spread development opportunities to remote, poor and marginalised communities and regions, thus enabling countries to better achieve their Sustainable Development Goals.

These significant benefits can be maximised if corridors are planned and implemented through an integrated approach using sound policies, plans and practices.


As well as achieving economic goals, development corridors need to protect the integrity of ecosystems and respect the rights and livelihoods of communities from the earliest stages of planning and throughout their development.

Negative impacts of poorly planned and implemented corridors may threaten Natural Capital, ecosystem integrity, livelihoods and social cohesion. Sometimes, they may leave communities with few benefits and greater vulnerability to, for example, the impacts of climate change.

Building Capacity in Africa and China for Sustainable Development Corridors