Sub-theme 2. Commons towards urban transformation
Shaping Africa’s Urban Futures: Planning and Governance Dilemmas
Urban planning and governance in Africa are still tied to the colonial tradition, and have not adapted fast enough to the reality of rapid urban change in the post-colonial period. UN-Habitat estimates that Sub-Saharan African cities have close to 200 million slum dwellers, most of who work in the informal sector where they simply do not earn enough to afford a high standard of shelter and services. These slums contrast sharply with elite neighborhoods where the affluent few enjoy high quality housing and residential environment. What does sustainability mean for such cities and townspeople? Many planners and government officials tend to dismiss the informal sector as ‘a chaotic jumble of unproductive activities’ that should be removed through forced eviction and other forms of repression. We argue that while these officials have the responsibility to uphold the law that protects public health and the urban environment, current research suggests that the path to urban peace and sustainability in Africa lies in building more inclusive and socially equitable cities “where everybody, irrespective of their economic means, gender, age, ethnic origin or religion are enabled and empowered to participate productively in the social, economic and political opportunities that cities offer”. The Panel invites papers that provide fresh insights on pathways to sustainable African urban futures, and on appropriate urban planning and governance models and visions for the continent; ways to rethink and re-envision the cities in response to rapid urban growth and extensive informality, even as we rightly as we seek to modernize.
1. Negotiating the city: Urban planning and dwelling amidst China-built infrastructure in Nairobi, Kenya
Harvard University, USA, The University of Oxford, UK
China-led infrastructural projects have fostered the rapid urbanisation of Sub-Saharan Africa, yet the development of African cities remains contested. In Nairobi, Kenya, China’s massive financing of housing and connective infrastructure is radically propelling new ways of planning and dwelling in the city, often at the expense of the urban poor. These mega projects involve slum clearance, urban relocation, and new forms of habitation – high-rise living and gated communities – which are transforming the social fabric of the city and furthering existing social inequality.
This paper investigates how China-funded infrastructural projects and expertise are producing new models of urban governance in Nairobi. Based on preliminary participant observation and interviews among city dwellers – the ‘users’ of infrastructure – I will show how citizens are affected by development projects at the grassroots and investigate how city dwellers are espousing, appropriating, or rather contesting these new forms of governance.
2. Prosperity turns within Nairobi’s water tinkering practices: implications for planning and governance.
Urban Studies and Planning, The University of Sheffield, United Kingdom
Rooted in western understandings of the world, urban planning and governance discourses have depicted nature as an external mechanism that we can comprehend through science and manipulate to our will. However, an initial examination of these premises reveals some tensions between the conceptualisation of human influence in current transition frameworks and the manifold ways through which processes of change actually happen. This paper investigates the multiple ways in which frictions between objects, people and geographies generate uncontrollable changes in human and non-human entities, reformulating the meaning we give to the world and, eventually, challenging universal definitions of prosperity through practices of care and emotional connection. Empirically, I focus on everyday water practices in different areas of Nairobi including low-income, high-income and middle-class communities from Karen, Mathare, Dandora and Pangani. I explore the results of a knowledge co-production process, in which Nairobi’s inhabitants identify a variety of on-going acts of tinkering through which water is made available in the city. Answering the question ‘What does sustainability mean for such cities and citizenships?’, Nairobi citizens’ pictures, recordings, and discussions around water constitute a collective assessment of the ways in which social and physical landscapes are continuously shaped and the impacts of those changes in terms of sustainability and justice. Ultimately, I provide an alternative reading of transition and climate governance in the context of a messy and changing world, beyond formal political spaces and strategic planning.
3. Urban Renewal as Class War: Demolitions of “Illegal” Homes, Neighbourhoods and Markets in Nigeria
Federal University Otuoke, Nigeria
For the purpose of making Nigerian cities less congested, healthier and more functional, several governments have, since the early 1990s, carried out large scale demolition of so-called illegal homes, entire neighbourhoods and markets. Using Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt for illustration, this paper gives brief accounts of some demolitions carried out in Nigeria, and attempts a critique of the practice of urban renewal in the country. It is asserted that, in trying to renew cities through demolitions, the federal and state governments of Nigeria seem to be waging a war against poor city dwellers, in the interest of rich city dwellers. Through comparisons with some large cities across the world, it is shown that Nigeria’s leading cities are rather low in population density, such that large-scale demolitions of slums cannot be justified on the basis of high city-wide population densities. It is argued that, after many years of non-adherence to the original master plans with the connivance of government, much is wasted and livelihoods threatened by attempts to restore original master plans. It is argued that, as cities grow in concentric rings, the need to demolish crowded places like markets and artisan parks will be minimized if, with the construction of more flyovers and subways, each ring is allowed to retain its own markets and artisan parks rather than continually shifting them to the outskirts. The suggestions in the paper are The suggestions in the paper generally seek to help achieve urban renewal with minimum social cost—suggestions that will not only improve the cities, but also protect the poor, thus ensuring that both the rich and poor benefit from urban renewal.
4. Who plans Antananarivo? Mega-projects, elite bargaining, and disjointed governance
Centre for Development and Environment, University of Bern, Switzerland
Madagascar is one of the world’s fastest urbanizing countries. Its capital, Antananarivo, is heavily polluted, poorly governed, and its development deemed ‘totally anarchical’. Several master plans have been initiated but they lack long-term joint vision, enforcement, and coordination. In parallel, the national government has made Antananarivo the flagship of Madagascar’s development through mega-infrastructure projects conceived outside the formal policy sphere, monopolizing scarce state resources.
Drawing on a modified political settlement approach and 65 semi-structured interviews with urban planners and architects, state and city officials, chiefs, investors, consultants, and urban dwellers conducted over a 3-month field stay in Antananarivo, this paper analyses the micro-politics of urban planning and development in the Malagasy capital. It explores the ambiguous relationship between the ‘formal’ and the ‘informal’ in the making of the city, the increasing institutionalisation of bargaining processes between political and economic elites, and the impact of such processes on the livelihood of urban dwellers. While most explanations for poor state performance in implementing and enforcing urban plans and regulations focus on capacity, the paper argues that development outcomes in the city are best understood by looking at the strategies, interests and relative power of different groups competing over the material and ideological resources embedded in the city. It suggests that a sustainable future for Antananarivo starts by adopting planning practices that account for the disjuncture between formal and informal institutional processes and match the configuration of power in the capital.
5. Livelihood assets and electricity access: evidence from Kampala’s slums
University College London, UK
Over half of Uganda’s urban population lives in slums, where access to grid-electricity is precarious, despite their proximity to the grid. Using the asset pentagon from sustainable livelihoods approaches, the study investigated the asset forms that slum dwellers leverage to access electricity. We categorised the assets into human, physical, financial, social and natural assets, and investigated how they each enable or limit access to electricity. Data were collected using household surveys, focus group discussions and semi-structured interviews in Nakulabye slum, Kampala. Electricity needs in the settlement are met through three main provision mechanisms: provision by the utility from the main grid; provision by private providers from off-grid energy systems and devices; and provision through social support structures. The choice between options depends on the assets that people own or have access to and the ease with which they can wield them to negotiate or broker access. Slum dwellers manage complex asset portfolios and leverage them to access and use electricity. While some assets are productively converted or exchanged for electricity, others create coercive or exclusionary dynamics that stifle electricity access and usage. Service provision by the utility should be complemented with alternatives that enable slum dwellers to easily convert or exchange their assets for access. It is also important to recognise the importance of intangible assets like social relations in filling the gaps left by the utility. Finally, we recommend embedding energy justice principles in electrification programs and policies by engaging with slum communities, increasing support for complementary solutions to utility grid provision, and data-informed energy needs assessment for slums.