P030 – Reconfiguring African Cities: the Roles of State and Non-state Actors and of the Social Sciences
9 July, 16:00-17:30

Udelsmann Rodrigues Cristina / ISCTE-IUL, University Institute of Lisbon


Urban transformation in the last decades has accelerated, particularly in the most populated areas of sub-Saharan Africa. The remarkable and unprecedented growth of the African urban population poses new challenges not only to a variety of stakeholders and experts, but particularly to the social sciences. The colonial city, often incorporated into the unplanned and precarious slums that rapidly grew around where the majority of the urban population is concentrated, is today showing new signs of ‘modernizing’ endeavours. Modern buildings, reconfigured central districts, new international and regional connections, commercial infrastructures, are all part of renewed landscapes of many African cities today. This contemporary urban change is a consequence of varied combinations of major drivers of change – the state, major private investments, local entrepreneurship – as cities integrate cosmopolitan and globalised references and, at the same time, become increasingly more attractive to investment. The social implications being produced involve recompositions, relocations, sociospatial reformulations, new adaptations of urban networks and of sociabilities. This panel addresses these social repercussions of the urban ‘material’ change, aiming at the identification of the key themes for the social sciences in the present-day context.

Reconfigurando as cidades africanas: os papéis do Estado, dos atores não-governamentais e das ciências sociais
A transformação urbana nas últimas décadas acelerou-se, sobretudo nas áreas mais povoadas da África subsaariana. O crescimento notável e sem precedentes da população urbana africana e das taxas de urbanização colocam novos desafios não só a um conjunto de partes interessadas e peritos nestas áreas mas particularmente às ciências sociais. A cidade colonial, que em vários casos foi incorporando bairros precários não planeados onde a maioria da população urbana está concentrada, cresceu rapidamente e hoje mostra novos sinais de empreendimentos “modernizadores”. Edifícios modernos, bairros centrais reconfigurados, novas conexões internacionais e regionais, infraestruturas comerciais, fazem parte das paisagens renovadas de muitas cidades africanas hoje. Esta mudança urbana contemporânea é uma consequência de combinações variadas de grandes motores de mudança – o Estado, grandes investimentos privados, o empreendedorismo local – à medida que as cidades integram referências cosmopolitas e globalizadas e, ao mesmo tempo, se tornam cada vez mais atraentes para o investimento. As implicações sociais que são produzidas envolvem recomposições, deslocalizações e reformulações sócio-espaciais, novas adaptações de redes urbanas e de sociabilidades. Este painel aborda estas repercussões sociais da mudança urbana “material”, visando a identificação dos temas-chave para as ciências sociais no contexto atual.


Paper 1

Pedro Joana / Independent

Megaprojects as the new actors of spatial planning in Mozambique

Mozambique achieved an impressive average of 7.2% economic growth during the last decade, which positioned the country as one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. This growth is due to various factors, one of them being the investment in megaprojects in the country. Parallel to the economic growth the urban population has grown tenfold in the last decade. To cope with this, significant activity in housing and urban development has been initiated. While traditional approaches to planning have always been led by the public sector and have included the public provision of infrastructure, in the last decade, new urban development and infrastructure provisions have become less a matter of state planning and have been far more dominated by private-sector interests. The regions of Tete and Palma are two of these examples. In Tete the discovery of one of the largest reserves of coal has led to a process of mass resettlement, performed primarily by the mining operators in the region. In Palma the oil&gas companies are preparing the resettlement of hundreds of people to enable the development of the base of the liquified natural gas operations for the fast evolving offshore Mozambique natural gas industry. Although in partnership with the state, these megaprojects have become the new basis for spatial planning of the regions. This article aims to understand the impacts of this phenomenon, through the case studies of the Tete and Palma region.

Paper 2

Meth Paula / Department of Town Planning, University of Sheffield

Charlton Sarah / School of Architecture and Planning, Wits University

Men’s experiences of state sponsored housing in South Africa: emerging issues and key questions

In South African cities, millions have lived in informal housing for decades. Men in these contexts liken their situation to animals, revealing the hardships of squatting (Meth, 2009). Yet significant material changes are now occurring in these cities through the state-directed provision of 3 million formal houses to poor beneficiaries. This intervention is significantly reshaping residents’ daily lives (Charlton, 2013), their economic prospects and their sense of self. In turn, residents are re-working the housing to better suit needs. The state programme is innovative in its targeting of beneficiaries with dependants, where over half are women (Pieterse, 2014), suggesting patterns of ownership are likely to impact on men, their household power, control over resources and access to employment. This is occurring alongside the continued significance of the home for many men’s sense of authority and identity. Indications are that men’s experience of this housing intervention is diverse, complex and likely to illuminate wider social issues and structures, illustrating the connections between material urban change and social processes. This paper considers research by Paula Meth and Sarah Charlton on social outcomes of housing interventions for men in the cities of Durban and Johannesburg respectively, focusing on emerging issues as well as key questions for future research.

Paper 3

Nielsen Morten / Aarhus University

Twinned-out urbanism: redoubling the urban landscapes in Maputo

Based on ethnographic data from Maputo, Mozambique, this paper explores recent processes of urban gestation where new infrastructural configurations seem to develop though the internal twinning of the existing city. Across sub-Saharan Africa, the spatial layout of urban environments are being reshaped through the construction of entirely new ‘parallel cities’ designed as fully functional habitational units separated from the existing built environment. Taking Maputo, Mozambique’s worn-out capital, as an apt example of this recent process, in this paper I chart how infrastructural potentialities associated with recently projected parallel cities affect the configuration and dynamics of already existing urban spaces. Given the lack of human and financial resources, the Maputo Municipality has de facto surrendered entire sections of inner city neighborhoods to foreign entrepreneurial developers seeking to profit on the increasingly lucrative real-estate market. Hence, as I will claim in this paper, these recent and relatively inconspicuous processes of urban take-over crystallize (and are rendered possible through) a peculiar ‘twinning’ of the conspicuous infrastructures of emerging parallel cities. As a paradoxical kind of urban ‘fetus-in-fetu’, as it were, the twinned-out symmetrical relation is constituted through the enveloping of the city’s overall layout and aesthetics by its more recent and potentially detrimental anti-twin. The city as parasiting on its double.

Paper 4

Stacey Paul / University of Copenhagen

In a state of slum: governance in an informal urban settlement in Ghana

Old Fadama in Accra, is a vast informal settlement that appears to be outside of government control. However, this does not mean that they are not governed. In fact, while statutory institutions are virtually absent in the daily governance of the 80.000 odd population of Old Fadama, alternative public authorities are emerging, which strive to provide the area with services, security, justice and property. Through a fine-grained analysis of relations of recognition and the everyday governance we show how the local population both forms their own political institutions and connects to government institutions through intermediaries. Through processes of negotiation and actors interpretations of interactions, a convoluted relationship of dependence develops between government, intermediaries, and slum residents which defies the logic of formal state law: government delivers some services that are popularly interpreted as acknowledgment of right of residency. And in turn, residents organize and develop their own practical institutions of governance without which administration could not deliver these very services. In this way, people establish rights by reverting to informal arrangements, but they do not enjoy the exclusive right of defining or exercising the rights they may enjoy. This shows that the emerging non-statutory governance of services, justice, property and citizenship, come to define, shape, and underpin, what it is that constitute ideas of state, law, and rights.

Paper 5

Stasik Michael / University of Bayreuth

Klaeger Gabriel / Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

Hawking in times of infrastructural renewal: technology and technique in Ghana’s changing roadside spaces

Many of the cities and towns in Ghana are currently experiencing important material and infrastructural changes. Mainly driven by state agencies, urban planners and engineers, these changes contribute to the (at least partial) renewal of specific urban landscapes, or spaces, and are frequently encountered by local (non-state) actors through various, yet not always successful forms of adaptation and creativity. Drawing on the combined cases of a newly constructed transport terminal and an important bypass along one of Ghana’s main arterial roads, our paper examines how itinerant roadside entrepreneurs (commonly called ‘hawkers’ in Ghanaian English) adapt – or fail to adapt – to reconfigured infrastructures whose material and legal setup is devised for debarring hawkers from operations. In so doing, we focus on two roles space takes on in practices of ordering: (1) as a form of (spatial) governance reified through the spatio-technological assemblages of newly configured roadside architectures; and (2) as a form of ‘entrepreneurial resource’ created and exploited by local users through spatially-honed ‘body techniques’ (Mauss 1973). Ultimately, this focus leads us to address the conditions, limits, and spaces of local creativity which emerge in contexts of contemporary urban change.

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