Environment & Urbanization

World leading environmental and urban studies journal

Reframing the Urban Challenge in Africa: Knowledge Co-production from the South

Ntombini Marrengane, Sylvia Croese




This edited volume grew out of the African Urban Research Initiative (AURI) at the University of Cape Town. As research about and from African cities remains insufficient, Reframing the Urban Challenge in Africa aims to contribute to decolonizing African urban research. This is partly about rethinking the methods and tools for generating knowledge, for instance through embedding genuinely inclusive knowledge co-production in global research networks.

The book’s chapters cover various cities, but all are concerned with urban governance as it affects some aspect of formality or infrastructure. The chapter on Angolan housing explores the explosive growth in Angola’s cities following the 2002 peace accords. It focuses on the first Urbanization and Housing Programme, from 2009, which set the aim of mobilizing varied sectors to create 1 million housing units. While ambitious, this was still only about half of what the government estimated was needed. And, as chapter author Allan Cain argues, the focus on numerical targets masked deficiencies in housing quality.

The majority of the 1 million housing units was intended to be created by owner-builders themselves, with the government providing land, infrastructure, materials and guidance. However, the results have fallen far short of the targets; one issue was insufficient municipal capacity to manage the land titles and building licences. The initial attempts to upgrade musseques (informal settlements) ended up displacing residents and appropriating their land; later in-situ upgrading approaches have improved services without the same displacement effects. All in all, only 1/3 of the intended 1 million homes had been created by 2016, almost none of which benefitted those on low incomes. The chapter argues that changes to land finance are needed to improve the availability of housing for the urban poor.


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Further reading:

Nyanchoga, Samuel A (2014), “Politics of knowledge production in Africa: a critical reflection on the idea of an African university in sustainable development”, Developing Country Studies Vol 4, No 18, available at https://www.iiste.org/Journals/index.php/DCS/article/view/15985.

Simon, David, Henrietta Palmer, Jan Riise, Warren Smit and Sandra Valencia (2018), “The challenges of transdisciplinary knowledge production: from unilocal to comparative research”, Environment and Urbanization Vol 30, No 2, pages 481–500, available at https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0956247818787177.

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