9. Governing African Cities: Hybrid Arrangements and Data for Development

E-mail of panel organisers: R.K.Jaffe@uva.nl

This panel explores changing modes of urban governance as city authorities struggle to respond to ongoing urban transformations. The governance of rapidly changing African cities is often achieved through a heterogeneous assemblage of actors, technologies and policy models, in which formal and informal modes of governance are imbricated. In this panel, we are specifically interested in exploring the ways in which a range of state and non-state actors and institutions come together in urban governance, in sectors such as security, housing and environmental service provision. We focus on hybrid governance arrangements that involve politicians, policymakers and bureaucrats as well as international financial institutions, NGOs, corporate actors, and even criminal organizations. What are the implications of the pluralization and privatization of public goods provision for efficiency, transparency and accountability?

Beyond an interest in the composition and operation of such public/private, formal/informal arrangements, we are also interested in exploring the politics of knowledge in urban governance. What power struggles surround the collection and use of digital data and spatial data in the name of 'development' and 'urban best practices'? Who owns new sets of "big data" and who has access to it? We are interested in the opportunities that exist for democratic modes of participatory mapping or counter-mapping, as well as the ways that these data sets result in surveillance. New forms of data, whether produced 'from below' or 'from above', can both be a source of power in community dynamics and the citizen participation in urban processes, and tie into existing categorizations that delineate specific groups of beneficiaries and exclude others.


1. Co-prodcution of public services as a way to govern informal settlements in Africa

Author: Kei Otsuki (United Nations University, Japan)


This paper proposes to explore how to establish inclusive and transformative urban governance in Africa through the lens of public service provision of water and sanitation in slums. Sub-Saharan African countries have about 60 per cent of the urban populations in slums where sanitation coverage is below 50 per cent. The majority of slum dwellers use unimproved informal facilities, and an estimated 25 per cent still practice open defecation. This situation led the United Nations to brand African slums and their sanitation crisis a “global scandal” of poverty and neglect.

At the same time, this official neglect has led non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community-based organizations (CBOs) to strive to improve and implement informal facilities, with increasing international donor funding and with a new generation of collaborative governmental officials and traditional leaders. Proliferation of the informal facilities have been reshaping the focus on sanitation in African cities from a lack of public services to a co-production of public services involving various actors.

Drawing on a research conducted in Nairobi, Kenya, this paper argues that the process of the service co-production indicates potential pathways to establish hybrid urban governance arrangements that could be genuinely inclusive. The paper highlights an importance of conceptualizing water and sanitation as socially embedded infrastructure in a heuristically identified placemaking and citizenship building context. The focus on embeddedness however entails solid attentions to be paid to gendered dimensions and power relations within a slum. Recognizing these dimensions opens up new space for situating knowledge about locations and management modalities of the sanitation facilities, indirectly indicating a way to effect hybrid governance.

2. Governing Security Together: Struggle over Knowledge, Direction and Representation between Gangs, Police and NGOs in Nairobi

Author: Naomi van Stapele (University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands)


Security is high on the agenda of local governments in African cities, a focus that has become all the more more critical in Nairobi in view of recent terrorist attacks. Government authorities, scholars and development practitioners are struggling to grasp current events and develop conceptual frameworks, policies, and interventions to address the deteriorating security situation in Kenyan cities. This paper explores a case in which gangs and former gang leaders set out to work together with police forces to improve security in Nairobi's informal settlements, under the auspices of the Nairobi City Council and the Safer Nairobi Initiative (part of the UNHABITAT safer cities program). In contrast to dominant views, gangs are important security providers in informal settlements in Kenyan cities and at times even protect local citizens from state-actors such as the police. The intention of the project was to check present police reforms 'from below' (as part of the current process devolution of government) and decrease the unlawful killings of young and poor men and overall harassment of community residents. Yet, the government organisations and NGOs involved want to use this project to (also) implement the highly controversial Nyumba Kumi programme. This is a state project that aims to install local resident-informants in every neighbourhood in Kenya to guard ten neighbouring houses each and work together with local government authorities. Though initiated by gangs, the project is in danger of being appropriated by the local government and associated NGOs. This paper discusses how this case can help to bring into view the challenges that emerge when state and non-state actors (including criminal groups) come together in governing security in an African city. How do these arrangements mediate power struggles, and how are these struggles tied to issues of determining the directions of the project, developing and 'owning' knowledge (i.e. ideas, contacts and ¬–digital– data about local social dynamics) and about (social) media representations? What are the implications of all this for the implementation and impact of this and other similar projects in African cities? And, how do these power dynamics reproduce existing categories and exclusion mechanisms this project intended to transcend?

3. A Whispers Game: Mediated information and local power dynamics in Delft, Cape Town

Author: Marianne Millstein (The Nordic Africa Institute, Sweden)


In this paper I explore how information works as a mediation of power in the politics of housing in Delft, Cape Town. Delft is host community for temporary relocation areas (TRAs) as well as massive housing construction. This means that who has right to housing is a major issue in local politics. Access to and controlling information about housing resources - including information about categories and selections of beneficiaries meant to achieve ‘just’ housing allocation - is critical for city authorities and housing development agents as well as for groups claiming legitimacy as voices of the community. The ways information is constructed and disseminated work as technologies for the exercise of power, but these are not solely acts of state authorities. Local activists and groups are also involved in these processes, and can use and (re)construct information in particular ways with various effects. What emerges resembles a local version of the Whispers game, where information is produced, retold and reinterpreted. The ideals of immediacy, in this case exemplified by expectations ‘from above’ that information in the name of transparency can be provided and disseminated in neutral ways in the community, clashes with the messy reality of mediations in everyday life (Mazzarella 2006). The concept of mediation is useful to think about how citizens make sense of their daily realities. This implies that while information is a means through which power works, it is in turn mediated through residents own perceptions and experiences. These mediated representations shape and are shaped by local identities and inform perceptions of a non-responsive state, and of who are to be trustworthy mediators in relation to other actors in civil and political society. I end the paper with a reflection over the recent wave of protests as a politics of immediacy in response to the mediated exercises of power.

4. Housing Schemes and Hybrid Scheming: Crisis and Changing Modes of Urban Governance in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Author: Amanda Hammar (Copenhagen University, Denmark)


In a context of ongoing political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe since 2000, marked not least by the aftermath of mass urban displacements, predominantly formal modes of urban governance from previous eras have been confronted with a combination of quite extreme physical, political, social and economic challenges. These have brought into play new dynamics of contestation and alliance between a range of state, party and other non-state actors concerning various material and symbolic resources. Focusing on the realm of high-density housing provision in one neighbourhood of Zimbabwe’s second city, Bulawayo, this paper explores the articulation between diverse actors – such as central state officials, municipal housing officers, local councillors, political parties, private sector service providers, community activists and other brokers– and their differential relationship to, production and/or use of ‘data’ (such as ‘housing lists’) to control and legitimise allocations and access to housing. This provides at least one entry point into tracing emergent forms of hybrid urban governance in contemporary African cities marked by crisis, additionally prompting an examination of their implications for urban citizenship.

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