Skip to main content
Glendon Campus Alumni Research Giving to York Media Careers International York U Lions Accessibility
Future Students Current Students Faculty and Staff
Faculties Libraries York U Organization Directory Site Index Campus Maps
GSGLI_banner_E_r3
GSGLI_banner_B_r3
GSGLI_banner_A_r3
GSGLI_banner_C_r3
GSGLI_banner_D_r3
<< >>

C1: Africa Research Cluster

Team leads: Robin Bloch and Alan Mabin

Team Members and geographic areas: 

(a) Alan Mabin, Alison Todes, and Robin Bloch (Johannesburg and the Gauteng City Region, South Africa);
(b) Alison Todes (Durban/ eThekwini, South Africa);
(c) Alan Mabin and W Kombe, Ardhi University (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania);
(d) George Owusu, Robin Bloch, plus Felix Hammond and Issaka Ndekugri, University of Wolverhampton (Accra, Ghana and 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).

Publications and Dissemination:

Buire, C. (2014). “The Dream and the Ordinary: An Ethnographic Investigation of Suburbanisation in Luanda.”  African Studies.

Todes, A. (2014). New African Suburbanisation? Exploring the Growth of the Northern Corridor of eThekwini/KwaDakuzaAfrican Studies.

Bloch, R. (2014). “Economic Growth, Class and Africa’s New Suburbs.” Presented at the Cadbury Conference, University of Birmingham, Department of African Studies and Anthropology (Class in Africa: A Reassessment). May 15-16, 2014.

Mabin, Alan, Robin Bloch & Sian Butcher. (2013). Peripheries, suburbanisms and change in sub-Saharan African cities. Social Dynamics: A journal of African studies.

Mabin, Alan,(March 7, 2012). Peripheries, suburbanisms and change in African cities. “Urbanity Week: Remaking the city”. Uppsala University

Mabin, Alan, Robin Bloch & Sian Butcher. (7-9 July, 2011). Scope and Dimensions of Suburbanization in African Cities. Paper presented at the International RC21 Conference 2011, Session 16.1 The Challenge of Global Suburbanism. Amsterdam.

Mabin, Alan. (8 April, 2011). Scope and Dimensions of African Suburbanism. SUBURBS Talk hosted by the CITY Institute at York. York University, Toronto.