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The political opportunities and obstacles associated with Africa’s urban challenges 
Diana Mitlin (University of Manchester)
Tim Kelsall (ODI)
Seth Schindler (University of Manchester)
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Infrastructure and energy
Tuesday 29 June, 14:15-16:00 (UTC+1)

Short Abstract:

This panel engages leading African thinkers and doers in the field of urban studies from civil society, government and academia. The panel addresses municipal governance, the role of urbanization in national development strategies and factors that inhibit the achievement of developmental objectives.

Long Abstract

What do Africa’s urban residents make of their future with models of economic development offering rising income inequalities, climate threats exacerbating already significant infrastructure inadequacies and – as the COVID-19 pandemic has made clear – considerable income insecurity. National governments recognise urban centres for their potential contribution to economic success and appreciate the income flows that they generate. But national governments are also wary of the demands for greater political autonomy by city governments. They are aware of their need to manage urban electorates and the potential for political opposition. Meanwhile citizens have rising expectations and increasing frustration at the inability of city governments to deliver affordable reliable basic services and provide opportunities for homes and jobs. And as new generations are born in and grow up in cities, traditional social values and political loyalties are reconsidered.

Thus, urban residents and governments face intersecting political, economic, ecological and social pressures rooted in numerous domains such as housing, social welfare, poverty reduction and service provision. In this context the panel discusses three questions:

• What should be city governments’ development priorities?

• What is the role of urbanization in national development strategies?

• What are the political obstacles and opportunities that prevent to facilitate their realization?


Patience Mudimu (Director, Dialogue on Shelter Director, Harare)

Joseph Muturi (grassroots leader from Kenya, chairperson of Slum/Shack Dwellers International)

Yvonne Aki Sawyerr (Mayor of Freetown)

Shuaib Lwasa (Urban Action Lab (Makerere), Global Adaptation Centre)

Lucy Earle (IIED)

Abdul Gafaru (University of Ghana Business School)