Accepted paper:

Infrastructure ideals and reality in African cities


Wolfgang Scholz (TU Dortmund University)

Paper short abstract:

The paper contributes to infrastructure theory and social studies by conceptualising urban infrastructure regimes in Africa, to planning theory by exploring the translation of Western planning models and ideals to Africa and to water supply concepts with their social and urban dimension in Africa.

Paper long abstract:

Infrastructure is not only a technical way of supplying services but it also compromises an ideology and a specific urban model thus producing urban space. The prevailing model is the network city with equal access to the services by a network of pipes shaping the urban fabric in a grid system. The water supply in today´s African cities, however, differs much from this infrastructure ideal. So far studies and theories of urban infrastructure have paid only little attention to African cities especially in terms of the specificity and distinctness of the socio-spatial and socio-technical conditions. The paper is based on an ongoing research (2013-2015) of the Technical Universities of Darmstadt and Dortmund, Germany in Dar es Salaam, Nairobi and Accra. Assumptions are: (1) African cities are to be seen as "ordinary cities" - as a subject of urban studies in their own rights (Robinson 2002), (2) socio-technical systems make up considerable portions of the material, economic and geopolitical fabric of contemporary cities (Graham 2000) and (3) circulating urban and technological ideals, engineering concepts and the corresponding planning principles are shaping urban systems (Hård/Misa 2008). Special focus is on new and hybrid institutionalisations and materialities of African urban water regimes and the co-production of services through diverse forms of self-organisation and "non-grid" technologies. The paper will present preliminary findings for a broader discussion.

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