C1: Africa Research Cluster

Team Leads:

Robin Bloch & Alan Mabin

Team Members & Area of Study:

Alan Mabin, Alison Todes & Robin Bloch (Johannesburg & the Gauteng City Region, South Africa)
Alison Todes (Durban/ eThekwini, South Africa)
Alan Mabin & W. Kombe (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)
George Owusu, Robin Bloch, Felix Hammond & Issaka Ndekugri (Accra, Ghana & Tema, the adjoining metropolitan area).

Research Context, Methods and Goals:

The African context is one of an urban population now as large as that of north America or Europe, and this regional cluster will bring the study of African suburbanisation into the same intellectual arena as that of other continents.  Following Ekers, Hamel and Keil (2010), suburbanisation is here understood as ‘the combination of non-central population and economic growth with urban spatial expansion’.  In the immense variety of African urbanisms, the cluster is exploring what forms 'suburbs' and peripheries in general, take in various African contexts, including spaces which concentrate new economic activities, zones of middle and upper income residence, the meaning of informality of building, land markets and social activity, and the various elements of what is often termed ‘urban sprawl’.The key theme is rapid growth of cities into new spaces and forms, with interest in the main trends with regard to this growth, what the drivers of growth are, and how it is shaped (or not) by policy and institutional mechanisms that try to direct urban growth (and the reality of what happens in practice). The case studies will focus on key actors involved in African suburban growth and the creation of African suburbanisms, and the ways they influence it (property developers, landowners, traditional authorities, administrators; households of different types; politicians). Life in the suburbs and visions of the future will receive attention.

Current Activities:

In Year 1, a literature review on African suburbanisms (Butcher, Mabin and Bloch) was presented inter alia at RC21 in Amsterdam. The intersection of the Africa Cluster with the Govermance cluster also produced a review and discussion paper on Africa’s new suburbs (Bloch).  In addition, in September 2011, a workshop to plan the 'case study' and 'vantage point' research on suburbs and suburbanization in several African cities was held in Cape Town.

This workshop will prepare us for Years 2 and 3, when we will conduct detailed case studies of current growth and development in selected cities and regions. Oriented by the Global Suburbanisms perspective and the jointly established African research agenda, we will focus on the process of land development and its governance on the urban periphery, as driven by large scale economic, social and cultural dynamics. Researchers will analyze how landowners, investors, real estate developers, planners and regulators—public and private—collude, collaborate and, occasionally, are in conflict in developing new suburban settlements and suburban ways of life.

The studies comprise: (a) Johannesburg and other cities in the Gauteng City Region (Pretoria/Tshwane, East Rand/Ekurhuleni), South Africa (Mabin, Todes, Bloch); (b) Durban/ eThekwini, South Africa (Todes); (c) Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (Mabin and Kombe, Ardhi University); (d) Accra, Ghana and Tema, the adjoining metropolitan area (Owusu, Bloch, plus Felix Hammond and Issaka Ndekugri, University of Wolverhampton). Some comparisons will be drawn with North America and India (Harris and Mabin).


Conference and Workshop Presentations

Publications and Other Dissemination