Accepted paper:

Exit, voice and loyalty: Contentious urbanization in Accra and Nairobi

Authors:

Jeffrey Paller (University of San Francisco)
Jacqueline Klopp (Columbia University)

Paper short abstract:

We explore the politics of urban growth in Accra and Nairobi. We explain when neighborhoods engage with the state, and whether they choose to exit the formal system, voice their political grievances, or remain loyal to the governing regime.

Paper long abstract:

African cities have long histories of urbanization, which include illegal property allocation, land invasions and squatting, immigrant and population expulsions, demolitions, exclusive urban planning and the formation of parallel governance structures. These historically shaped processes contribute to production and reproduction of socially segregated spatial organization, and unequal access to services and urban space today. In this paper, we explore the politics of urban growth—what we call contentious urbanization—in two African cities: Accra and Nairobi. We examine the conditions under which neighborhoods politically engage with the state, and whether they choose to exit the formal system, voice their political grievances, or remain loyal to the governing regime. We argue that these decisions depend on a mix of political factors that cannot be reduced to simple state capacity or demographic factors that are dominant in the academic literature. We pay close attention to the informal networks of power and brokerage that mediate how slum communities access land, space and services. The paper offers insights into the needed transformation of urban politics required to improve service delivery and address inequity in ethnically diverse and weak-formally institutionalized African cities.

panel P049
Urban Africa, Voice, and Politics