Accepted paper:

Cement Boom ! The West African Urban Corridor under construction (Accra, Lomé, Cotonou, Porto-Novo, Lagos)


Armelle Choplin (Université de Genève)

Paper short abstract:

Cement production is supposed to boost African economic growth. Tracking the cement chain from cement plants to construction sites, this paper critically questions the impacts of this "cement boom" and its role on the emergence of the West African coastal corridor from Accra to Lagos.

Paper long abstract:

Development partners and donors are openly promoting cement as a lever for economic growth and 'unlocking Africa's potential' (World Bank, 2016). By focusing on the "cement chain", this paper tries to decipher these narratives and the concrete effects of the « cement boom », intrinsically linked to the « construction boom ». Cement is a binder: concretely, it binds sand, water and clinker. In Africa it also, metaphorically, binds urban politics, environment, economy and the daily practices of urban dwellers. Through the lens of cement and crossing « building and dwelling perspectives » (Ingold, 2013), this paper aims to: i) understand the transformation of the construction sector, analysing the point of view of dominant stakeholders (companies, technicians, architects, planners) ii) examine the practices, imaginaries and material life of city dwellers who become foremen and building entrepreneurs, iii) demonstrate how cement symbolises the new 'metropolitan condition', initially defined by Walter Benjamin (1999), being (re)manufactured in contemporary Africa. This is particularly true along the West African urban corridor (linking Accra, Lomé, Cotonou, Porto-Novo, and Lagos), the Africa's largest urbanised zone, dominated by cement grayish color, where over 30 million people live, travel, consume and build…

panel Econ09
Inside a construction boom: politics, responsibility and the temporalities of urban development