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P11a


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The political economy of urban reform in Africa: from analysis to action 
Convenors:
Sam Hickey (University of Manchester)
Diana Mitlin (University of Manchester)
Tim Kelsall (ODI)
Abdul-Gafaru Abdulai (University of Ghana Business School)
Stream:
Politics and political economy
Format:
Panel
Sessions:
Wednesday 6 July, 11:50-12:30 (UTC+1)

Short Abstract:

New research on the political economy of African cities, with a dedicated focus on dealing with covid-19, and on the role of coalitions in promoting more just and sustainable urban futures.

Long Abstract

Urbanisation with little structural transformation has left urban economies under considerable stress. The Covid-19 crisis is acute and has had a disproportionate effect on urban areas primarily because of over-crowded under-serviced low-income neighbourhoods and the impact of lockdowns and other restrictions on mobility of urban economic activities. Gender disadvantages are acute, with women having relatively low remuneration and a considerable burden related to their role in social reproduction. African cities are also increasingly threatened by climate change.

These and many other challenges facing African cities are firmly embedded in problems of political economy and governance at multiple levels. Cities offer a valuable source of both rents and political legitimacy for elites at national and city levels. However, the frequently oppositional nature of urban populations often leads to tensions between urban voters and national governments. City governments seldom have the autonomy to deal with their challenges, being located within multi-levelled systems of governance that are often dysfunctional and which fail to afford them the fiscal, political and bureaucratic capabilities to address complex problems.

This panel will showcase new work that uses a political economy perspective to understand both the challenges facing African cities and the prospects for interventions and reforms that can address them. At least three sessions will be organised by the African Cities Research Consortium (ACRC), an international partnership based at the University of Manchester. This will include:

(a) One or two sessions based on the use of ‘political settlements’ analysis to help advance our understanding of the challenges facing African cities. A conceptual paper plus case-studies drawn from Accra, Freetown, Harare, Lilongwe, Maiduguri, Mogadishu and Nairobi will be submitted in advance. Expert chairs will ensure that an active discussion is organised around key themes.

(b) A session on the politics of covid -19, drawing both on “top down” interventions and the remaking of bottom-up coalitions pressing for reform in Kampala, Lilongwe, Mogadishu and Nairobi. Examines urban management and governance under the stress of the pandemic.

(c) A roundtable session focused on a paper on the role that ‘coalitions’ can play in navigating the politics of African cities in pursuit of more just and sustainable solutions. The lead author is Diana Mitlin and ACRC will compose a panel of both academic and policy experts, including from the global South, to discuss the paper and its implications for a new generation of reforms in African cities.

We will welcome other papers into this panel also use political economy analysis to unpack the challenges facing African cities and/or on how a new generation of politically feasible reforms aimed at tackling these challenges might emerge.

Accepted papers: