Urban platforms and metropolitan logistics

African cities and collaborative futures: Urban platforms and metropolitan logistics brings together scholars from across the globe to discuss the nature of African cities – the interactions of residents with infrastructure, energy, housing, safety and sustainability, seen through local narratives and theories. This groundbreaking collection, drawing on a variety of fields and extensive first-hand research, offers a fresh perspective on some of the most pressing issues confronting urban Africa in the twenty-first century. Each of the chapters, using case studies from Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania, explores how the rapid growth of African cities is reconfiguring the relationship between urban social life and its built forms. While the most visible transformations in cities today can be seen as infrastructural, these manifestations are cultural as well as material, reflecting the different ways in which the city is rationalised, economised and governed. How can we ‘see like a city’ in twenty-first-century Africa, understanding the urban present to shape its future? This is the central question posed throughout this volume, with a practical focus on how academics, local decision-makers and international practitioners can work together to achieve better outcomes.

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Situating peripheries research in South Africa and Ethiopia
Paula Meth, Alison Todes, Sarah Charlton, Tatenda Mukwedeya, Jennifer Houghton, Tom Goodfellow, Metadel Sileshi Belihu, Zhengli Huang, Divine Mawuli Asafo, Sibongile Buthelezi, and Fikile Masikane

This chapter examines the operationalising of research focused on understanding how transformation in the spatial peripheries of South African cities and an Ethiopian city is shaped, governed and experienced. We discuss both intellectual and methodological challenges and insights of undertaking the research which has at its core a desire to understand the dynamics and drivers of change and the ‘lived experiences’ of residents living on the peripheries of cities, using a mixed qualitative methods approach. We reflect upon and propose conceptualisations concerning terms such as periphery, ‘drivers of change’ and what or whose lived experiences are captured or can be known. In doing so we point to preliminary findings and consider issues of comparability and differentials in data depth and coverage. The chapter concludes by highlighting the richness of researching the peripheries.

in African cities and collaborative futures
Open Access (free)
Learning from communities in informal settlements in Durban, South Africa
Maria Christina Georgiadou and Claudia Loggia

In South Africa, over half the population live in urban centres, with one in five households living in informal settlements. Such unplanned settlements form a major challenge in the urban landscape, exacerbating issues related to poverty, inadequate infrastructure, housing and poor living conditions. This chapter investigates various interpretations of self-help approaches, as the term is understood in different ways by informal dwellers, community organisations and external stakeholders, using experiences and lessons learned from good available practice in the Durban metropolitan area. Community participation through co-production strategies and participatory action research methods are used to understand the level of community empowerment and sense of local ownership. The concept of self-building is analysed in terms of identifying key success factors for supporting self-help activities by local government and community support organisations. The study also explores issues related to the project management of a community-led upgrading project, including the role of stakeholder management, procurement and project governance. Empirical data is gathered in the form of semi-structured interviews, observations and focus groups with community leaders, non-governmental organisations, municipal officers and industry practitioners. The research aims to build capacity in local communities seeking to improve their living conditions and assist local authorities in enhancing their planning mechanisms.

in African cities and collaborative futures
Inclusive urban energy transformations in spaces of urban inequality
Federico Caprotti, Jon Phillips, Saska Petrova, Stefan Bouzarovski, Stephen Essex, Jiska de Groot, Lucy Baker, Yachika Reddy, and Peta Wolpe

In this chapter, we discuss the key issue of how to envisage a just, fair and equitable energy transformation in the South African context. We argue that the move towards a new energy landscape cannot simply be described as a transition, but more accurately (in light of the need to involve multiple scales and actors, and to manage complex development outcomes) as a societal transformation. We also ask the key question of what a just and equitable transformation might look like in the context of South Africa in 2030. The chapter was co-written by scholars with multiple theoretical perspectives and backgrounds, and by practitioners at Sustainable Energy Africa, a Cape Town-based organisation centrally involved in promoting urban energy transformations that are both low carbon and equitable.

in African cities and collaborative futures
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From an ‘infrastructural turn’ to the platform logics of logistics
Michael Keith and Andreza Aruska de Souza Santos

The conclusion of the volume considers ways in which the collection speaks to the future of urban studies globally as well as the particular challenges of African cities. It suggests that the chapters in the volume share a disposition that supports ‘translational research’ that advances urban studies from a concern with the powers of infrastructures of the city to a complementary but alternative focus on the architecture of the platform economies they configure and the logistics through which cities themselves manage to function in even the most challenging circumstances. While the introduction focused on the fashion in which different forms of disciplinary expertise and science ‘lands’ in the African city, the conclusion addresses the ways in which the work of the contributors to this volume speaks to forms of global governance and international city networks, claims made in the name of the Anthropocene understanding of the urban system at planetary scale, the dynamics of climate change and the contours of global political economy. The conclusion draws on the work of anthropologist Jane Guyer to highlight the need to combine a sense of the path dependencies of urban form (their legacies), the structures of scientific knowledges that make the workings of cities visible (their logics) and the forms of infrastructural combinations that lubricate their working (their logistics).

in African cities and collaborative futures
Open Access (free)
Urban presence and uncertain futures in African cities
Michael Keith and Andreza Aruska de Souza Santos

In the context of urban Africa, how can we ‘see like a city’ and yet account for the different legacies of colonialism, inequality and social change across the region? This is a discussion that encompasses both local experiences as well as shared postcolonial theories of planned modernisation. Particularities about a place’s history and demographics also call for an analysis of how exceptionalities are responses to pressing global contexts. By combining specific discussions on African cities with a global overview on key issues including waste, energy transition, security and risk governance, we break the conventional polarisation between seeing ‘from within’ or ‘from afar’. The scholarship we present showcases the perspectives of scholars based in Africa and the UK, offering an alternative framing through collaboration and shared research. The data analysed and represented is also interpreted and translated, speaking through a variety of personal and scientific dispositions that appear throughout this volume. In particular, we use infrastructure – in its various intersections of place, people and power – to discuss the philosophy and postcolonial theories around becoming and being a city.

in African cities and collaborative futures
Open Access (free)
The bridge, the fund and insurance in Dar es Salaam
Irmelin Joelsson

This chapter conceptualises the broad scope of repertoires manoeuvring economic governance through anticipation as ‘popular insurance’ by exploring hedging strategies in Dar es Salaam, a city where access to social security is highly constrained, public goods are scarce, yet insurance is brokered. Drawing on eighteen months of fieldwork, including three months interning with a Tanzanian social insurance fund, the chapter suggests a tripartite relational model for exploring the ways in which the infrastructures of a bridge in central Dar es Salaam interface with the financial infrastructures of the ‘modernising’ nascent welfare state, mediated by the cultural calculation of risk. By doing so the chapter shows that insurance is a practised infrastructure enacted by different actors in the city, where the notion of risk might have multiple meanings and be negotiated on different levels and timescales.

in African cities and collaborative futures
The politics of value and valuation in South Africa’s urban waste sector
Henrik Ernstson, Mary Lawhon, Anesu Makina, Nate Millington, Kathleen Stokes, and Erik Swyngedouw

This chapter is a summary of research into different types of waste interventions in South Africa. The neoliberalisation of the South African state, the widening socio-ecological polarisation and the discursive emphasis on pursuing a more socially inclusive and ecologically benign development trajectory turn the South African case into an emblematic example of urban waste transition. The examination of interventions in the urban metabolic waste stream provides a lens through which to capture some of the key processes, contradictions and transformations. The chapter describes the dynamic institutional, technical, social and political-ecological landscape of waste management in South Africa and how this in turn is shaping the practices by which waste is transformed into economic and social value, who is allowed to claim such benefits, and what makes for successful claims. The empirical work is based on investigations into 1) the technologisation of waste management, 2) the differential impacts of the internationalisation of waste management finance and 3) initiatives that emphasise collaborative governance and community participation and awareness as means of improving waste management.

in African cities and collaborative futures
Mark Pelling, Alejandro Barcena, Hayley Leck, Ibidun Adelekan, David Dodman, Hamadou Issaka, Cassidy Johnson, Mtafu Manda, Blessing Mberu, Ezebunwa Nwokocha, Emmanuel Osuteye, and Soumana Boubacar

Risk-sensitive urban development is required to reduce accumulated risk and to better consider risk when planning new developments. To deliver a sustainable city for all requires a more frank and comprehensive focus on procedure: on who makes decisions, under which frameworks, based upon what kind of data or knowledge, and with what degree and direction of accountability. Acting on these procedural questions is the promise of transformative urban development. This chapter explores the status of risk-sensitive and transformative urban development and the scope for transition towards these components of sustainability in urban sub-Saharan Africa through the lens of diverse city cases: Karonga (Malawi), Ibadan (Nigeria), Niamey (Niger) and Nairobi (Kenya). A common analytical framework is presented to help identify blockages and opportunities for transition towards a risk-sensitive and transformative urban development. This framework is then illustrated through each city in turn; a concluding discussion reflects on city observations to draw out recommendations for city-level and wider action and research partnerships.

in African cities and collaborative futures
Trevor Burnard

The Atlantic slave trade was a violent institution. What is more important than cataloguing the everyday and extraordinary violence in the Atlantic slave system – which began in the mid fifteenth century, before Columbus’s voyages to the New World, and which lasted until 1888, when Brazil became the last society to abolish slavery – is to analyse the meanings for planters, traders, and enslaved people of the constant violence that enveloped this system. This chapter uses violence as an analytic category in order to demonstrate how brutality, violence, and death were not mere by-products of the extremely lucrative early modern plantation system, but were the sine qua non of that plantation world.

in A global history of early modern violence