Env12
Taking the initiative in African cities: grassroots responses to rapid and mismanaged urbanisation

Convenors:
Genet Alem (TU Dortmund University)
Manuel Ramos (ISCTE - University Institute of Lisbon)
Discussant:
Nadine Appelhans (TU Dortmund University)
Stream:
Environment and Geography
Location:
David Hume, LG.09
Thursday 13 June, 8:45-10:30

Short abstract:

Urban grassroots initiatives in Africa are pooling together very much needed resources to cop up with challenges of rapid urbanisation. The panel examines these actors and their initiatives within a dynamic national and international policy context and local institutional framework.

Long abstract:

Africa's urban population has been increasing by 27 million of population every year. Such population influx is triggered both by rural-urban migration and natural population growth. What makes Africa's current process particular, when compared to other urbanising regions in the Global South is that socio-economic development lags much behind in relation to the speed of urbanisation. Urban management capacity remains at a rudimentary level and quite incapable of providing affordable basic infrastructure and creating adequate livelihood opportunities to the population. The result is the unstoppable expansion of informal settlements, characterised by precarious living conditions and imense poverty. Simultaneous to growing urban problems and facing the incapacity of urban administrations to provide shelter and basic urban services, urban dwellers resort to creatively engage in grassroots self-help informal organisations. Such self-help organisations function as means of resource mobilisation to cater basic services, enhance community capacity in dealing with socio-economic problems as well as in claiming otherwise undeliverable services and support for self-initiated local development projects from urban and national governments. The panel hence examines: how such self-help informal organisations interact with formal urban management systems and influence the adverse effects of urbanisation; how far do self-help urban development initiatives change the constellation of actors in different levels of urban governance; how do the dynamics of national and international policy frameworks influence the role of self-help actors in building urban management capabilities in urban Africa.