P204 – Dubai in Africa: Emulation, Critique, and Resistance
8 July, 16:00-17:30

Bromber Katrin / Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO) Berlin
Wippel Steffen / University of Southern Denmark, Odense


Despite lasting ambivalence in perceptions of the Persian/Arab Gulf states between epitomizing success and progress and disgust at dominance and arrogance, the blueprint of Gulf urbanism, life style and rigid politics is increasingly being adopted in Africa. Quite surprisingly, this is likewise the case in areas where one could expect the existence of very particular and historically distinct identity presentations of nations or cities. The panel therefore asks how and why the Dubai model is adopted in such places. Is it viable everywhere, or does it require specific and more or less similar socio–political and economic structures? Is it just ‘copy and paste’, or does it intersect and overlap with other, local and international, urban models? Do the answers to these questions provide an explanation to local contestations and modifications of the model? In how far do migrant workers from Africa to the Gulf turn into an emulating force back in their home countries? And how do people respond to failure such as unfinished construction projects, or ecological disasters associated with Dubai-style developments?

Dubaï en Afrique: émulation, critique et résistance
Les états du Golfe Persique/Arabe sont perçus de façon ambivalente, entre fascination pour le succès et progrès qu’ils incarnent, et dégoût face à leur domination et arrogance. Pourtant, en matière d’urbanisme, de style de vie et de politiques rigides de planification, l’Afrique prend de plus en plus exemple sur le Golfe. De façon assez surprenante ceci concerne également des champs dans lesquelles on s’attendrait à trouver des représentations identitaires nationales ou citadines très particulières et distinctes historiquement. Le panel interroge ainsi le comment et pourquoi d’une adoption et d’une résistance au modèle de Dubaï dans ces lieux. Cette adoption est-elle viable peu importe le lieu ou nécessite-t-elle des structures socio-politiques et économiques spécifiques et plus ou moins similaires ? S’agit-il d’un simple « copier/coller » ou ce modèle se trouve-t-il au croisement d’autres modèles urbains locaux et internationaux? Les réponses à ces questions expliquent-elles les contestations locales suscitées par le modèle et les modifications qui lui sont apportées ? En quoi les travailleurs/euses ayant immigré d’Afrique vers le Golfe sont-ils/elles porteurs/ses d’un mouvement d’imitation une fois retourné/es dans leurs pays d’origine ? Quelles sont les réactions face aux échecs des projets de construction inachevés et désastres écologiques associés au développement des projets de « style dubaïote » ?)


Paper 1

Bromber Katrin / Zentrum Moderner Orient/ZMO, Berlin

Wippel Steffen / University of Southern Denmark/SDU, Odense

Dubai elsewhere

The introduction to the panel serves to offer a closer look at the term Dubaization. It will therefore ask in which specific context it is used to signify specific kinds of processes and legitimizing discourses relating to rigid ways of decision making and implementation procedures in urban development? Based on the recently published volume Under Construction: Logics of Urbanism in the Gulf Region (co-edited by Bromber and Wippel with Christian Steiner and Birgit Krawietz, Ashgate 2014), the two convenors discuss the meaning(s) of the term and suggest avenues to discuss its wider implications and global influences.

Paper 2

Vannoppen Geertrui / Institute for Anthropological Research in Africa, KU Leuven, Belgium

Visionary chief: an anthropological examination of speculative urbanism in Ghana’s Oil City

Sekondi-Takoradi is a Ghanaian city with many faces, lingering in the past with a harbour and town- planning structure, dating back to the 1930s, but it has also been thrust into the future with its new corporate identity as the oil city. With the discovery of offshore oil in Ghana in 2007, the national oil-is-wealth discourse has taken a particular turn in Sekondi-Takoradi which is now building up its corporate identity as Ghana’s Oil City with a vision of a highly planned, world-class city, modelling itself after other oil and gas cities like Dubai. The oil-city discourse is actively produced and consumed by various actors in the city, equally present in the local media and the narratives of Sekondi-Takoradi’s citizens, whether hopefully or sarcastically.
One of the many real estate projects emerging all over the city is the King City project, a new town development in the farm lands on the periphery of Sekondi-Takoradi. It is promoted as a Public/Private Partnership with the “traditional” authorities of Takoradi since the initial idea came from the chief of Takoradi, and a clear-cut example of the speculative city Sekondi-Takoradi has become. Particularly interesting is how not only the municipality adopts neoliberal speculative techniques, but also the chief of Takoradi inscribes himself in the urban management of the city and in that sense rewrites his role as chief.

Paper 3

Sawyer Lindsay / Future Cities Laboratory, Singapore/Department of Architecture, ETH Zürich, Switzerland

Eko Atlantic: The role of Dubai in Bypass Urbanism in Lagos

This paper looks to Lagos, to Eko Atlantic which is proposed as the largest urban development in sub-Saharan Africa, and is a spectacular and quite literal example of ‘Dubaisation’. In one respect, Eko Atlantic is a singular development in Lagos in scale, prestige and sheer audacity, but in another it can be seen as part of a wider global trend of urbanisation that is dominant in Lagos, Bypass Urbanism. In this way, this paper aims to show that the influence of and employment of the idea of Dubai becomes just one way in which large-scale urban transformation is occurring in Lagos. The somewhat familiar and spectacular images of Eko Atlantic are doing a lot of work to rehabilitate Lagos in the global imaginary, but few people are asking what the consequences are for the wider city. Eko Atlantic is being pushed through by a small group of highly influential private developers. This is not new in Lagos, but on this scale it is reconfiguring the role of private actors and the state in urban planning in Lagos to unknown consequences. This paper will first consider Eko Atlantic in its specific context and how it relates to the wider city, then considering it as part of a global trend, the paper will then look at the potential impact of Eko Atlantic on Lagos’s future urban development.

Paper 4

Schukalla Patrick / Zentrum Moderner Orient/ZMO, Berlin

Governmental techniques of dispossession – The New Kigamboni City Project in Dar es Salaam/Tanzania

In recent years, a noticeable trend towards urban large-scale development projects (ULDPs) can be observed in various African cities. They differ e.g. in terms of the institutional background of their initiators, planners and financiers. However, they also share some commonalities. Being geared to master plan paradigms of urban planning that follow visions of “the good city”, the ULDPs’ notions of efficiency and “modern” urban forms appear as “islands” of economic imaginaries that give up integrative urban development aims as they are hardly compatible with the various realities of life of the marginalized majority of the urban populations. The proposed contribution focuses on the planning and implementation process of the “Kigamboni New City Project” located in a periurban area of Dar es Salaam/Tanzania where the current population is supposed to be dispossessed and resettled according to the plans. The draft of the future “Satellite City” is among others explicitly oriented towards Dubai as a role model. I suggest to conceptualize these processes as a form of urban accumulation by dispossession that builds on the discursive construction of antagonistic images of urban models and the attached conflicting rationalities of “being urban”. I therefore aim to engage with the governmental techniques and legitimizing “regimes of truth” that enable the Kigamboni project and the notion of “modernity” involved in the process.

← Back to list