Accepted paper:

Mvan, Yaoundé: Life in the Bustling Urban Periphery


Rachel Reynolds (Drexel University)

Paper short abstract:

Describes the recent social and economic development of Mvan, a peripheral neighborhood of Yaoundé, known for its diverse economy and high levels of employment. The paper describes how Mvan’s unique characteristics cohere community members for greater integration and quality of African urban life.

Paper long abstract:

As little as 20 years ago, Mvan, an amalgam of military and international NGO complexes, travel depots, and private boarding colleges near the airport, was considered a far away satellite of Yaoundé. Over time, however, this south side neighborhood has become a major economic engine of the city - transport and cargo, home supply and construction, clinics, educational services, a single large government office (the Office du Bac) and expat services all employ an unusually diverse group of residents who have flocked to the area to work and live because of opportunity, as well as the lack of barriers to their entering the neighborhood and its employment sectors. This paper contributes to the panel on conviviality and contradictions by experimentally mapping Mvan's unique characteristics and discussing how its particular local economy serves the city and the nation in surprising ways, by integrating urban stakeholders in maintaining Mvan as a lively enclave and socioeconomic alternative to the status quo of other kinds of well-off neighborhoods and employment centers in the greater Yaoundé area. In particular, the paper sets the stage to argue that in an era of flagging state employment and increased marginalization of the less powerful as resources for education and employment become stressed to near breaking, Mvan's particular situation can serve as a model for ways to cluster emergent institutions and livelihoods in new city neighborhoods to cohere communities for greater integration and quality of life across ethnic and other social and economic groups.

panel P093
Cameroonian cities: conviviality and contradictions