Despite a city’s ability to accommodate a diversity of identities, socio-political relations, spatial formats, economies and political expressions, cities are far from being automatically inclusive and democratic. What are promising solutions to the problems that African cities face today? How do the various agents involved – formal and informal – as well as the (power) relations between city planners, governments, investors, inhabitants, impact on the vision, implementation and sustainability of these efforts? On what scale do efforts to make cities more inclusive yield positive results? What about the risk of low impact “cosmetic”/token projects? What and who are the drivers and impediments of an open city, a city for all? Participants: Victoria Okoye (Journalist, Lagos), Jenny Fatou Mbaye (City University of London), Edgar Pieterse /African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town), Chair: Claudia Simons (Heinrich Böll Foundation)
Cities are praised as the most open form of human settlement. However, despite a city’s ability to accommodate a diversity of identities, socio-political relations, spatial formats, economies and political expressions, cities are far from being automatically inclusive and democratic. In Africa – as anywhere else – one of the most pressing issues with regard to the city is the question of in- and exclusion. A sustained influx into cities combined with high birth rates contribute to rapid urban growth manifest in a situation whereby the majority does not have access to basic services and decent housing. Furthermore, large parts of the city’s population are excluded from democratic participation in shaping the city’s future. At the same time, luxury infrastructure is popping up in many African cities to respond to an increasing demand from urban elites to consume a particular kind of urbanism that tends to be consumption focussed and enclave based. The result is a deeply divided urbanism.
There are, however, a range of efforts to give people access to resource allocation processes and city governance. The three inputs will shed light on the necessary conditions for fostering and implementing alternative visions to splintered urbanism, based on the increasing exchange of social and policy innovations between cities as well as on concepts and practices of urban cultural governance with regard to an open and inclusive city.
Is extreme splintered urbanism the inevitable future of African cities?
Edgar Pieterse, director of the African Centre for Cities and holder of the South African Research Chair in Urban Policy, both at the University of Cape Town.
Engaging ground-level, informal perspectives to inform inclusive city futures
Victoria Okoye, founder, African Urbanism, Accra, Ghana, and Urban Advocacy Specialist, Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO).
Concepts and practices of urban cultural governance in the open city
Jenny Mbaye, Lecturer in Culture and Creative Industries, City University of London.