Evading the 'mgambo': spatial claim and the challenge of evictions
(University of Lagos)
Paper short abstract:
This paper examines the mechanisms through which traders claim space through a comparative study of street traders in Lagos and Dar es Salaam. Set within rights-based debates, the paper argues that subversive spatial claim and new strategies of coalition are reconfiguring urban space in Africa’s globalising cities.
Paper long abstract:
This paper examines the mechanisms through which traders claim space and challenge persistent attempts at street 'cleansing' through a comparative study of spatial claim of street traders in Lagos and Dar es Salaam. The paper draws on extensive research in both cities, examining the effect of large-scale evictions at the major bus park and markets at Oshodi Junction in Lagos, and the on-going clearances in Dar es Salaam for the DART rapid transit and other projects, to examine the political economy of spatial claim, and poverty implications of approaches commonly adopted in African cities. Widespread informality has now become a structural characteristic of low-income urban economies, and in Lagos and Dar es Salaam, like many cities of the developing world, the informal economy provides the majority of urban jobs. Street traders are at the forefront of battles for urban space, working in one of the most visible and contested domains of the urban informal economy. However, they are also rational actors in a globalised economy, are increasingly wily in negotiating urban claim through social capital and sheer force of numbers. Nevertheless they must overcome modernisation attempts to control the city, by urban police (in Lagos the KAI force and in Dar es Salaam the mgambo), informal landlords and 'thugs', and through a punitive legal context that make streets trading illegal across multiple domains. Set within a rights-based framework, the paper argues that subversive spatial claim, and new strategies of coalition, are reconfiguring the modalities of space in Africa's globalising cities. (this paper was developed in collaboration with Alison Brown and Peter Mackie)
Respatializing informality in urban Africa