Accepted paper:

Greening African Cities - elite discourses, diverse practices and new approaches


David Simon (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Paper short abstract:

Against the background of contested histories of urban planning, this paper surveys the shifting discourses and practices of urban sustainability linked to the challenges of environmental change in African contexts and offers insights from alternative practices of transdisciplinary co-design/co-production.

Paper long abstract:

Urban sustainability discourses in Africa have a history of alignment to elite and middle class discourses traceable to colonial modernist planning legacies and their appropriation by postcolonial elites. The need for profound transformation of urban presents into urban futures that meet the challenges of environmental change to reduce vulnerability and promote resilience through substantive adaptation strategies is now widely recognised across much of the continent. However, making such shifts that are inclusive and widespread in the challenging contemporary contexts of constrained resources, urban growth, profound disparities of wealth and livelihood opportunities, not to mention very variable calibres of urban governance, represents a tall - and some would say - unrealistic order. Nevertheless, cities, including in Africa, are often at the forefront of efforts to meet the challenges since they are today both major sources of emissions and key locations where the effects of environmental change and variability are felt. This paper surveys the various current sustainability discourses and practices, including diverse approaches to 'urban greening', and discursive shifts, before offering insights from alternative practices through versions of transdisciplinary co-design/co-production that might offer locally appropriate approaches.

panel P200
Sustainable Cities in Africa: plans, dreams, and practices