This panel will explore the way in which past, present and future is used as political resource by numerous local, national and international actors and how their articulation plays a decisive role in shaping urbanism in Africa.
Presentism which postulates that neither the future nor the past exist is very much dominant in a common understanding of Africa's cities. This is not only the legacy of a chaotic vision of urbanization of the continent, an ontological analysis determined by what cities lack (industrialization, infrastructures, government, public policies). It is also very much part of the uncertainty and elusiveness of urban life, the massive precariousness of work and the fact that people have so often replaced infrastructure. The present is no doubt powerfully shaping everyday life. Yet all Africa's cities have layers of history (from slavery to colonialism, nationalism, war or conflicts) which are mobilized by individual and collective actors to make claims. In a context of reduced resources, citizenship based on a community vision of the past is often used as a way to exclude groups from access to resources, jobs, houses or services. The future has eventually become another political possibility. It has been largely mobilized in the last decade: political leaders promote the narratives of a developmental state, draft digital cities of the future, design metropolitan plans for Dakar, Nairobi, Lagos or Cape Town, banks predict the emergence of an urban middle class and international companies see urban areas in the continent as the next promising consumption markets. This panel will explore the way in which past, present and future is used as political resource and how their articulation plays a decisive role in shaping urbanism in Africa.