Bus stations in Africa
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Bus stations are among the most prominent locations of everyday social and economic activity in Africa, and they are surprisingly understudied. In this panel, we seek to explore the significance, multifunctionality and diversity of bus stations in Africa.
Bus stations are among the most prominent locations of everyday social and economic activity in Africa. The African lorry park, motor park, gare routière or terminal rodoviário is a hub of travel, transport and mobility; a centre of trade, commerce and the informal service industry; and a nodal point for the circulation of value, knowledge, meaning and ideology. Issues pertaining to social, cultural, economic and political domains fold together in Africa's bus stations in exceptionally dense ways. Comparable to African marketplaces, they are sites of proliferous encounters. Yet as Paul Nugent (2010) has recently noted, while "markets have received their fair share of academic treatment, lorry parks have not received nearly enough attention as interactive spaces". In this panel, we invite Africanist researchers from all disciplinary backgrounds to present their approaches to, and empirical findings on, the significance, multifunctionality and diversity of what Polly Hill (1984) has suggestively termed "peoples' airport" in Africa. We welcome historical and contemporary perspectives on bus stations in both urban and rural settings. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to, explorations of bus stations as places of work, trade, travel, commuting, dwelling and crime; their role in African (auto)mobilities, road regimes and infrastructures; their relation to (urban) governance, reform, (de)regulation, privatisation and the political economy.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Bus stations in Africa: an introduction
In this joint introductory paper, we highlight the significance of African bus stations both as prominent arenas of everyday social and economic activity and as extraordinarily rich (yet surprisingly neglected) locales for social science research.
In this joint introductory paper, we draw on long-term research on lorry parks in Ghana and gares routières in Senegal respectively for highlighting the significance of African bus stations both as prominent arenas of everyday social and economic activity and as extraordinarily rich (yet surprisingly neglected) locales for social science research. In doing so, we want to make three general points: (1) Though bus stations in Africa share the common feature of being central nodes in the organisation of public transport, frequently linked to the urban "informal" sector, these places are shaped by both specific local and national historical trajectories (2). As particularly dense, complex and diverse places, bus stations in Africa present a wide range of research themes and issues. This abundance obliges us to make choices, whether consciously or not, which directly impact research results and the narrative we produce about these places as researchers. (3) In order to gain a better understanding of how African bus stations "work", a multidisciplinary endeavour based on different methods and perspectives offers a productive venue, to which the collection of papers in this panel seeks to contribute.
Motor Park Culture in the Ibadan Metropolis, Southwest Nigeria
The study examines motors parks in Ibadan as sites for cultural production, showing that motor parks produce sub-cultural spaces with their own language, norms and values. These spaces, it suggests, serve as important sites for understanding agency and subjectivity in Africa.
Existing studies on bus stations, known as motor parks in Nigeria, have dwelt on their economic importance and political relevance but very little attention has been focused on them as sites for the production of culture. This study examines the motor park as a space for cultural production with its own language, norms and values. Three motor parks in Ibadan metropolis were selected based on their size and volume of activities. Qualitative data were drawn from focus group discussions, key informant interviews and participant observation. The study reveals that there are five distinct but interrelated sub-cultural spaces around the motor parks which define their cultural inclinations. Motor park leaders also exude self-confidence that draws women and patronage from political elites both of which encourage space appropriation and naked power display with effects on perceived culture. The study concludes that the motor park space in Ibadan offers insights into how bus stations serve as important site for understanding agency and subjectivity in the context of cultural production in Africa.
The good, the bad and the ugly sides of Ojota Bus Stop, Lagos, Nigeria
Ojota Bus Stop is a strategic motor transportation terminus in Lagos, Nigeria, hosting multi-billion Naira business concerns. Its strategic location makes it a cauldron for commercial and criminal activities. This study therefore explores the good, the bad and ugly sides of Ojota Bus Stop.
Ojota is a settlement located in Kosofe Local Government Area of Lagos State, the commercial capital of Nigeria. The once quiet neighbourhood has transformed into a major transportation hub. Today, Ojota now plays host to the popular Ojota Bus Stop, a major Lagos terminus for local and international land transportation. This paper therefore explores the good, the bad and the ugly sides of Ojota Bus Stop. It adopts a sociological and ethnographic research design. Data was collected qualitatively through interviews and observations. Data was analysed qualitatively using interpretative methods. Among others, findings showed that Ojota Bus Stop is a centre of multi-billion Naira commercial activities, both at the formal and informal levels. A huge percentage of residents in Ojota environment generate their economic livelihood from Ojota Bus stop. Today, Ojota Bus Stop is also notorious for criminal extortions, rape, crime and violence. Likewise, the original settlers of Ojota community have been displaced as most residential buildings have been converted to commercial premises. This study concludes that Ojota Bus Stop as a socio economic space has continually evolved, yielding to important and strategic historical, social, economic, political, cultural and environmental colourations, while retaining its importance as a peculiar agent of integration and balance between commerce and habitation.
Bus stations in Zambia, for travellers or criminals?
This paper discusses some of the more prevalent activities that take place in bus stations in Zambia, asking whether these are performed for benefiting travelers, or criminals.
In Zambia, like in most countries in Africa, public road transport is the main form of motorized mobility. With this background in mind one can hardly mention travelers without mentioning bus stations, where most road travels are organized. This paper highlights some of the experiences travelers make at bus stations. It will discuss some of the economic and social activities that take place at bus stations, mentioning who does them, how, and why such activities take place there - while debating whether such activities do benefit the travelers or not. Finally, the paper will address the social space of bus stations with regard to issues of gender relations, crime and 'lawlessness'.
Sites of Social Encounters: Bus stations in rural Zimbabwe with reference Chidamoyo Township, North-western Zimbabwe.
This paper examines the social life that obtains at rural bus stations using Chidamoyo Township, in North-western Zimbabwe as its case study. It argues that such stations are places to loiter, get entertainment, engage in diverse kinds of interactions and argue about anything, and places of memory.
Rural areas in Zimbabwe had their road infrastructure developed during the colonial era when Africans were forcibly moved into reserved areas. Buses and bus stations immediately followed becoming an everyday feature. Bus stations found at rural shopping centres gradually developed into prominent interactive spaces. Such township bus stations became points of social relations and activities, points of connection, places of conflict and contestation, places of memories and above all as places of the development of a township lingo that feeds into the local language and creating generational divisions. Using the concept of the everyday this paper examines how the 'practice in the day-to-day reality' at the bus station informs and shapes rural people's agency and entertainment. It moves away from the economic argument about bus stations to emphasise the social side that perceives people coming simply to loiter, debate about buses and cars, catch rumours and news from the cities. It argues that rural bus stations are points of expectations, just watch the sun go down and identify new faces or visitors in or to the locality. Rural bus stations tell a story about the time of the season and the level activity is seasonal. It argues that such stations are points of entertainment and diverse interactions. The paper analyses these arguments using information from fieldwork carried in Rengwe between 2011 and 2012 and uses Chidamoyo Township to understand the interactive processes that happen at and around bus stations. Its focus is the socio-historical development of rural bus stations.
The temporalities and temptations of (not) working in and around bus stations in provincial Ghana
This paper explores and discusses the specific temporalities and temptations of working in - yet at times also avoiding - bus stations in provincial Ghanaian towns by adopting the perspectives and everyday experiences of both bus drivers and hawkers.
Not unlike in other urban settings on the African continent, the bus stations that I have become well acquainted with in several provincial towns of southern Ghana appear to accommodate a myriad of activities and practices of diverse kinds and fostered by multiple actors. In this paper, I focus on the commercial practices of two kinds of entrepreneurs who commonly work, and provide their distinct services, in the towns' bus stations: bus drivers and hawkers. Yet I also show how these transport workers and station sellers regularly move beyond - at times even avoid - the seemingly confined spaces of bus stations in their attempts to cope with a competitive environment and to negotiate spatial, temporal and regulatory constraints. For instance, I explore how some bus drivers may be tempted to engage in the practice of what is labelled as 'overlapping', by which drivers avoid loading passengers inside the bus station and 'chase' passengers on nearby streets in order to make 'fast business'; or how hawkers oscillate between the safer grounds of the bus station and the risky (and often illegal) bus stops nearby. Discussing the specific temporalities and temptations of working in - yet at times also outside - bus stations is also an opportunity to grasp bus stations in Africa not as enclosed and self-contained spaces and workplaces, but rather as being part of a more complex infrastructure in which bus stations and streets resp. roads become intricately enmeshed through different actors' practices, movements and experiences.
Bodaboda "Stages": A historical ethnography of motorcycle taxi associations in Western Kenya
This paper tells the history of bodaboda as a history of its stands/stages, exploring how motorcycle stands spatially organize Kakamega town; how they operate as a gathering site for young men; and how the solidarities of the past have been transformed in the shift from bicycle to motorcycle.
This paper focuses on bodaboda (bicycle/motorcycle taxi) stands in Kakamega, Western Kenya. In the 1990s, bicycle transport became an important business in Kakamega. Bicycle-owner associations controlled particular routes and their "stages," the places where riders gathered to wait for customers. Over time, the associations came to be defined by their stage, and vice versa. In addition to regulating the right to ride on a specific route, the stage associations disciplined their ridership—they helped to allay anxieties about "youth on wheels" by imposing uniforms and bicycle licenses. Politicians saw these organizations as pre-formed voting blocks, and banked votes with favors and money. In its early years in Kakamega, bodaboda underwrote small fortunes and even political careers, largely because of the visibility of the stage associations and their political clout.
Today, motorcycle bodabodas have replaced most of the bicycles, and the historic power of the associations is reduced, but stages have proliferated across Kakamega town. At every intersection, outside every major building and shopping center, at the gate of every park, groups of young men sit on or lean against their bikes, waiting for passengers. This paper tells the history of bodaboda as a history of these stages, exploring how stages and their routes spatially organize Kakamega town and its relationship to nearby rural areas; how they operate as a gathering site for young men; and how the solidarities of the past have been both maintained and transformed in the shift to the motorcycle.
Fighting over urban space: matatu infrastructure and bus stations in Nairobi
The paper takes a historical approach to the development of transport infrastructure in Nairobi, analysing the contradictory demands placed by matatus and city planners in the positioning of major hubs in passenger transport in Nairobi
Crossing Moi Avenue from Nairobi's Central Business District to the north of the Nairobi Central, one is struck by the complete change in scenery and activity - the calm, largely pedestrian CBD gives way to a noisy, busy assemblage of streets and places that are jam-packed full of matatus in all sizes, boda-boda motorcycles, tuk tuks and street hawkers.
This is not one bus station, but rather a conglomerate of stops distributed throughout the quarter, where each street has become a specific terminus for routes from one area - Accra Road for the intercity buses, Latema Road for buses from the West and Northwest, Temple Road for those from the East and so on.
These are the result of constant interaction between City Hall and the matatu operators. While the bus stops developed in imitiation of public transport routes, they've outgrown their heritage. Historically, the city administration exhibited a seemingly arbitrary attitude to matatus, varyingly chastising them for their accident- and criminality-prone behaviour, introducing regulations and leaving the industry largely on its own.
The position and structure of bus stops in Nairobi, the paper argues, are the result of this combination of neglect and arbitrary measures introduced by the Kenyan state, and the creative reactions of matatu operators and their associations, who avoided, protested, occupied space and "captured" official terminals in the search for most profitable routes. Bus stations thus become areas of contested space in the city, where different actors vie for access to the city's infrastructure.
Going digital: Using a digital platform to integrate the BRT Rea Vaya and mini-bus taxi systems in Johannesburg
This paper designs a digital transport platform which integrates a formal government funded bus rapid transport system with an informal mini-bus taxi system. The paper argues that bus stations and mini-bus taxi stops play an important role in the innovation of Johannesburg's public transportation.
What if the categories 'formal' and 'informal' did not exist in our urban lexicon? What if all we saw was a city, a hodge-podge of interrelated economic activities some more successful than others? How would suspending these binary lenses allow us to imagine, create and design a transport system in Johannesburg? Drawing on the workings of the Rea Vaya, a bus rapid transport system with bus stations strategically located on the main internal road arteries of the city and mini-bus taxi systems in inner-city Johannesburg, this paper designs a digital transport platform that integrates the Rea Vaya and mini-bus taxis in Johannesburg. The Indlela digital platform provides consumers with multiple payment options, comprehensive transportation information, route planning opportunities and alert notifications to fulfill their journeys within the city. By simulating this platform, this research provides a potential policy solution to Johannesburg's fragmented transport system. It also integrates the formal and informal divides through which we conceptualize the city. A city in which the Rea Vaya - a government funded transportation system - is considered formal, while the mini-bus taxi industry operated by individuals is considered informal. Indeed suspending these binaries allows us, if only for a moment, to be free of our value judgments of these categories: where formal systems are considered superior and organized, and informal one chaotic and inferior. Taking off our bifurcated lenses enables innovation that draws on the best aspects of both these systems.
Les gares routières d'Abidjan : des sites au cœur de la gouvernance des transports artisanaux
A Abidjan, les gares routières sont des accotements de voirie d’où les transports artisanaux organisent les dessertes urbaines. La transformation de ces espaces en lieux de transport est la réponse des artisanaux à l’absence d’infrastructures de réseau alors qu’ils sont devenus les offres majoritaires.
A Abidjan, les gares routières sont des accotements de voirie d'où les transports artisanaux organisent les dessertes urbaines. La transformation de ces espaces en lieux de transport est la réponse des artisanaux à l'absence d'infrastructures de réseau alors qu'ils sont devenus les offres majoritaires. Tolérées par les municipalités, les gares permettent aux syndicats du secteur d'implémenter leur gouvernance, plus captation des ressources financières que respect des procédures normatives. Depuis l'aggravation des difficultés de la compagnie publique (Sotra), les structures en charge de la régulation laissent faire, se contentant seulement de la fiscalité de porte.
Dès lors, comment les gares routières organisent-elles la gouvernance syndicale ? L'étude, adossée à une démarche descriptive et analytique, est basée sur des enquêtes quantitatives et qualitatives. Elle a abouti à deux résultats. Le premier résultat est que le délitement de la régulation officielle a favorisé la gouvernance syndicale dans le secteur. Le second résultat montre que les syndicats, loin de réguler le secteur, utilisent les gares routières pour capter des ressources financières sur l'activité.
Mots clés : Abidjan, gare routière, gouvernance, syndicat, transport artisanal.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.