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jeu. 15 sept.



Africa’s Urban Futures

International Conference co-organized by the University of Geneva and the Swiss Society for African Studies

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Africa’s Urban Futures
Africa’s Urban Futures

Heure et lieu

15 sept. 2022, 10:00 – 16 sept. 2022, 19:30

Geneva, 1205 Geneva, Switzerland

À propos de l'événement

Urban violence. Transnational financial flows. Political crisis. Informal settlements. Smart cities. What happens to city life, urban planning or government, when urbanscapes sprawl and change beyond recognition? When new (material or digital) infrastructure emerge? When poverty strikes? When crisis comes?  What happens to our definitions of a ‘city’ when these events and attendant transformations are driven from and by the Global South? These are the interrogations this two-day international conference seeks to critically assess. Indeed, while Africa is projected to have the highest urban growth rate in the world by 2050, nearly one in two African citizens – that’s over 500 million people – already lives in cities. Long seen as ‘ungovernable’, ‘fragile’ or ‘anarchic’, due in part, to the proliferation of slums, uncontrolled urbanization, poor governance and criminal activity, African metropolises however, are also celebrated as places of cultural, infrastructural, political and social creation. African urban formations simultaneously emerge as spaces of social transformation, circulation of ideas and innovation, and the loci for potential covetousness and (societal) conflict. This international conference focuses therefore on a variety of urban-related issues emerging on the African continent in order to generate fresh insight on our urban world ‘yet to come’ (to paraphrase Abdoumaliq Simone) from a Southern urbanisms perspective that sees African cities as sites from which we can learn globally.

With the goal of making significant contributions to current debates that address the fast-changing nature of urban settings in Africa, this event is further structured around three interrelated broad themes and will feature two public side events including film screenings and discussions with the producers.

  1. The government of urban spaces Research on state formation and urban centres in Africa has long been dominated by normative perspectives. Both tended to be analysed not for what they are or have become, but for what they purportedly “fail” to be in comparison to their counterparts in the Global North. These perspectives, which focus on states and cities in Africa as “weak”, “disorderly”, “fragile” or “chaotic” have come under increasing criticism thanks to a focus on day-to-day governance practices, relations and structures. Cities are indeed critical spaces for processes of state formation, where state and non-state actors contribute to the government of everyday lives, providing thereof new insight on alternative forms of social organization, government and resistance.
  2. Urban (Afri)capitalisms  One of the most spectacular changes in African cities over the past 20 years has been the influx of new investments. This trend, which has been sustained by two decades of rapid economic growth, is especially manifest in the creation of new satellite cities built on the outskirts of capital cities. These new urban centres are generally presented as the continent’s urban future: Think of Eko Atlantic City in Lagos, Diaminadio in Dakar, Luanda-Sul in Angola. In this panel we will look at different elements of these investments: their origin, what they mean in terms of urban development, how they are perceived and appropriated on the ground, how the emergence of new urban centres changes the value of land and the dynamics of land ownership in and around them.
  3. Imagining Africa’s urban futures  The material transformations of African cities are also the expression of new globalised or globalising imaginaries (Afropolitanism, Afrofuturism, Blackness) that should be questioned, as they suggest that the African city can also be a space for dreaming and reinventing other futures. This will be addressed in the last panel, which will concentrate on cities as spaces of imagination, technological innovation and projection to rethink Africa and more broadly our contemporary world.

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