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Open Access

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Edited by Carole Ammann and Till Förster

This 10th thematic issue of International Development Policy presents a collection of articles exploring some of the complex development challenges associated with Africa’s recent but extremely rapid pace of urbanisation that challenges still predominant but misleading images of Africa as a rural continent. Analysing urban settings through the diverse experiences and perspectives of inhabitants and stakeholders in cities across the continent, the authors consider the evolution of international development policy responses amidst the unique historical, social, economic and political contexts of Africa’s urban development.
Open Access

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Aba O. Crentsil and George Owusu

Abstract

Metropolitan local governments in Ghana, most especially the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), have adopted and implemented a policy of decongestion of the large metropolitan cities of Ghana in the past decades. This policy has been implemented with the explicit aim of reducing informal activities and their operators in the central business districts (CBDs) and other key areas of the cities. While the implementation of the policy in Accra, Ghana’s largest metropolis, has been ad hoc in character, owing to a combination of factors such as limited public support and political liability most especially in election years, the policy in both theoretical and practical terms can be described as representing another form of the much criticised classical ‘bulldozing or slum clearance’ approach. Bearing in mind the backlash against the bulldozing or slum clearance approach as an unsustainable means for promoting urban development, city authorities have coined the term ‘decongestion’ as a simplistic approach to clearing areas of the city of Accra they perceive to be undesirable. This chapter reveals wide-ranging negative impacts of these bulldozing approaches on street traders, slum dwellers and other informal operators as well as the political liability of the policy. It also finds that the concept and practice of ‘Right to the City’ has, to a large extent, been ‘back-burnered’ as urban informal operators are regarded as not possessing any rights in public spaces, with serious implications for achieving inclusive and sustainable urban development as highlighted in the Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda.

Open Access

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Garth Myers

Abstract

This paper works to address what I consider the enduring ‘Africa problem’ in global urban theory. I engage and critique selected relevant urban thought from the Globalization and World Cities research group, from Henri Lefebvre and from the new wave of urban theorisation inspired by Lefebvre’s (1970) idea of ‘complete, planetary urbanisation’. I argue that urbanisation in Africa, largely absent from Lefebvre’s works, presents new twists that are better understood from outside a Eurocentric framework. I propose the possibilities of urban comparativism built from theories and conceptualisations that emerge from the global South and that can be utilised to compare non-Western cities’ urbanisation processes. I use case studies from Dakar and Zanzibar to examine the production of what Chinese urbanists detail as a ‘village’ in the city, on the edge of the city, and in the suburbs over the last half-century and the complexities and comparability of urbanisation processes in these settings. I end with reflections on the implications of these cases for any claims for universalising the twenty-first century’s processes of urbanisation and urbanism across the planet. My main finding for urban policy and planning practice is the documentation of the relevance and value of South–South comparisons of urbanisation processes for development.

Open Access

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Till Förster and and Carole Ammann

Abstract

Africa is urbanising faster than any other continent. The stupendous pace of urbanisation challenges the usual image of Africa as a rural continent. The sheer complexity of African cities contests conventional understandings of the urban as well as standard development policies. Lingering between chaos and creativity, Western images of African cities seem unable to serve as a basis for development policies. The diversity of African cities is hard to conceptualise—but at the same time, unbiased views of the urban are the first step to addressing the urban development conundrum. International development cooperation should not only make African cities a focus of its engagement—it should also be cautious not to build its interventions on concepts inherited from Western history, such as the formal/informal dichotomy. We argue that African cities are more appropriately regarded as urban grey zones that only take shape and become colourful through the actors’ agency and practice. The chapters of this special issue offer a fresh look at African cities, and the many opportunities as well as limitations that emerge for African urbanites—state officials, planners, entrepreneurs, development agencies and ordinary people—from their own point of view: they ask where, for whom and why such limitations and opportunities emerge, how they change over time and how African urban dwellers actively enliven and shape their cities.

Open Access

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Florian Stoll

Abstract

How is it possible to study the ‘cityness’ of cities, their particular character and the locally specific actions of their residents? One crucial aspect that distinguishes cities from one another is how social phenomena are embedded in a particular city’s built environment, its economy, and particular horizons of meanings.

To analyse a significant example of this embeddedness, this chapter examines Kenya’s Nairobi through the lens of social milieus in the middle-income stratum, the so-called ‘middle classes’.1 Moreover, the milieu concept enables the identification of social groups that share sociocultural features such as specific ways of life, professional and leisure activities, and forms of consumption and investment. The text studies which local aspects are significant for milieus in Nairobi in comparison to Mombasa and other Kenyan cities. And using two case studies, the Christian Religious Milieu and the milieu of the Young Professionals, it illustrates how the particular city modifies these milieus.

Such an approach not only allows for a better understanding of the ‘middle classes’ in African cities as comprised of different identifiable milieus, it also yields a method for analysing the local particularities of a city, whether in Africa or other parts of the world. The chapter is significant for policy and practice because it introduces with the concept of social milieus a nuanced alternative to (middle) class approaches that distinguishes lifestyles, aims in life and forms of consumption. Also, the chapter discusses, using the example of Nairobi, how milieus are bound to specific structures of a city and might offer—from the perspective of basic research—suggestions for practical use.

Open Access

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Lalli Metsola

Abstract

On the basis of a case study of informal residents’ claims over land, housing and basic amenities in Windhoek, Namibia, this chapter seeks to contribute to debates on the broad sociopolitical implications of claim-making dynamics between residents and public authorities. In contrast with antagonistic readings of such situations that focus on resistance, autonomy and rights, the chapter finds that both residents’ strategies and policies outline incremental paths of betterment and intersect in multiple ways. It ponders whether and how such incrementality produces institutionalised forms of relations between citizens and authorities, and calls attention to the principle of mutual dependencies as a key aspect in them.

Open Access

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Claudia Baez Camargo and Lucy Koechlin

Abstract

This article applies a novel conceptual framework to characterise and assess the repertoire of practices used by informal networks to redistribute power and access to resources. These distinct norms and practices are typologised as co-optation, control, and camouflage. Co-optation involves recruitment into the network by means of the reciprocal exchange of favours. Control is about ensuring discipline amongst network members by means of shaming and social isolation. Camouflage refers to the formal facades behind which informality hides and is about protecting and legitimising the network. All three are relevant to a more fine-grained understanding of corruption and its underpinnings. Findings from our comparative research in three East African countries (Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda) suggest that these informal practices are relevant to an understanding of the choices and attitudes of providers and users of public services at the local level. Adopting this analytical lens helps to explain the limited impact of conventional anti-corruption prescriptions and provides a basis to develop alternative strategies that harness the potential of social network dynamics to promote positive anti-corruption outcomes.

Open Access

Series:

Edited by Carole Ammann and Till Förster

Open Access

Series:

Ton Dietz

Abstract

Africa’s rapid population growth, and even more rapid urbanisation, creates serious sustainability challenges. Like many cities in other parts of the world, African cities try to become ‘green’, and promote change in urban design and lifestyles to encourage more sustainable living. Many of these initiatives are supported by international agencies and illustrated on agency websites. Studying these websites, we try to answer three related questions dealing with the inclusivity of those initiatives: the geographical coverage (which cities?), the thematic coverage (how ‘holistic’?) and the social inclusivity (how inclusive in terms of social focus?). Both scholars and practitioners should become more inclusive in their approaches to sustainable cities in Africa.