Accepted paper:

From peri-urban to suburban? Tracking changes in the periphery of Accra over a 20-year period


Katherine Gough (Loughborough University)
Paul Yankson (University of Ghana)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on quantitative and qualitative data collected over a 20-year period, this paper analyses the changing nature of peripheral areas of Accra and contributes to discussions of the boundaries and varying applicability of the terms rural, peri-urban, suburban and urban.

Paper long abstract:

Peripheries of cities have long been seen as the spaces and places where the rural and urban come together and where distinguishing between the two is at its most tricky. In a sub-Saharan African context, these areas have typically been referred to as peri-urban. This term refers to the outskirts and hinterland of cities, which are hybrid transitional zones characterised by mixed rural and urban land uses and livelihoods. Recently, however, some scholars working in these areas in a range of sub-Saharan African countries have started to use the term suburban, which is defined as decentralised urban spaces with peripheral locations characterised by low population densities and relative newness. In this paper we draw on research conducted initially in 1995/6 on aspects of land, housing, livelihoods and mobility in several areas on the periphery of Accra. Follow-up research has subsequently been conducted in the same places, now spanning a 20 year period. This research has generated a unique quantitative and qualitative data set with which to explore the nature of the changes taking place in these areas materially, economically, socially, culturally and politically. In order to understand these changes, the multiple links and flows of people, goods and ideas through these areas, and how these differ over time, are examined. This analysis feeds into a conceptual discussion of the boundaries and varying applicability of the terms rural, peri-urban, suburban and urban in a sub-Saharan African context.

panel P193
Boundaries, Links, and Flows: the Materiality and Political Meaning of Distinctions between Urban, Suburban, and Rural Africa