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Accepted Paper:

Conflicting Rationalities: A Critical View on German Infrastructure Funding in Urban Africa  
Lucas-Andrés Elsner (Technical University of Berlin)

Paper short abstract:

In discussing the reliance of German infrastructure funding bodies on Eurocentric knowledge of sustainable urbanism, and their conflicting logics and competing interests, this paper questions the extent to which these institutions are suited to promoting sustainable development in African cities.

Paper long abstract:

Germany plays only a minor role in the "New Scramble for Africa" (Carmody 2016). Nevertheless, for geopolitical and economic reasons, Africa has become a focus of German development policy in the last decade. Financing (urban) infrastructure through loans, grants and support for German private investment in Africa is a key component of this policy. German development cooperation institutions are committed to achieving the SDGs and follow internationally recognised standards for project evaluation and monitoring. However, this paper argues that partly conflicting rationalities and competing interests within German development finance policies, programmes and mechanisms complicate efforts to contribute to sustainable development in African cities. Drawing on postcolonial perspectives on development and debates on Southern Urbanism, I discuss the problems at three levels: first, infrastructure projects in Africa that are bankable from an institutional perspective may not necessarily be the interventions that are most needed. Second, there is a trade-off between promoting German economic interests and private sector-based solutions and contributing to development that benefits the urban poor and addresses environmental challenges. Third, the understanding of sustainable urban development and the assessment of interventions follow a Eurocentric, one-size-fits-all approach that ignores the specificity of the needs and challenges faced by African cities and their governments, and fails to properly incorporate African expertise. These contradictions are also reflected in global sustainable (urban) development policies to which German institutions are committed and have contributed. For this discussion, the paper draws on academic literature, policy papers, corporate documents and guidelines, and project databases.

Panel Poli20
Infrastructural futures: situating Africa within global connectivity initiatives [CRG African Politics and International Relations]
  Session 1 Friday 2 June, 2023, -