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 brought 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 explored what forms 'suburbs' and peripheries in general, taking 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 was 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 focused 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). Attention was focused on life in the suburbs and visions of the future.

Research & Dissemination

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 prepared the team for Years 2 and 3, when detailed case studies of current growth and development in selected cities and regions were conducted. Oriented by the Global Suburbanisms perspective and the jointly established African research agenda, this team focused on the process of land development and its governance on the urban periphery, as driven by large scale economic, social and cultural dynamics. Researchers analyzed 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 comprised: (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 were drawn with North America and India (Harris and Mabin).

As part of the MCRI Global Suburbanisms, the regional research group on Africa organized a workshop on Africa’s New Suburbanisms in Johannesburg, South Africa, October 17-19, 2016. Organized by the local hosts at the Wits City Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg under the leadership of Robin Bloch and Alan Mabin, the workshop was held at the Johannesburg Institute of Advanced Study, at the University of Johannesburg in Melville. ICF International and the City Institute at York University co-sponsored the event.

Presentations & Publications:

Conference and Workshop Presentations

Publications and Other Dissemination