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HP04 - The politics of urbanisation in Africa: exploring the everyday bargaining, contestation and competition of city-making

Convened by Lena Gutheil (German Institute of Development and Sustainability) and Sina Schlimmer (French Institute of International Relations (IFRI))

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Africa is the fastest urbanising continent of the world. It is projected that by 2050 two-thirds of Africans will live in cities. This rapid urban growth has received a great deal of attention by the donor community and has been defined a major issue of international cooperation. Urbanisation has often been presented as a technical challenge for urban planners and governance, whereas its political dimension has been discussed much less. Yet, urban areas are composed of places, events, people and institutions reflecting continuous and various forms of political action.

Local governments and municipalities compete and interact with other state and non-state actors to create rules, regulations and norms and to oversee their implementation. The political does not only manifest itself in practices of urban governance, but also in citizens’ everyday encounters with the state. Wealthy neighbourhoods and gated communities often have privileged access to public goods and services, while citizens in informal settlements lack political voice and support. At the same time, citizens are not passive, but take to the streets demanding participation and accountability and mobilise around reforms. Moreover, opposition parties as well as populist leaders are often more successful in urban areas on the continent.

The panel aims at exploring how these developments produce “new rhythms” of bargaining, contestation and participation and creates specific political subjectivities. We welcome contributions exploring the implications of urbanisation processes on urban politics and vice versa in Africa. More specifically, we invite papers providing case studies of what we call everyday governance, focusing for instance on actors such as local governments and the intergovernmental relations they are maintaining, bureaucrats, political parties, civil society and social movements and these actors’ practices. Case studies dealing with different policy sectors in which politics is revealed are welcome. African researchers are highly encouraged to apply.