Associational Life in African Cities: Popular Responses to the Urban Crisis

Associational Life in African Cities: Popular Responses to the Urban Crisis

Associational Life in African Cities: Popular Responses to the Urban Crisis

Associational Life in African Cities: Popular Responses to the Urban Crisis

Synopsis

The book contains 17 chapters with material from 13 African countries, from Egypt to Swaziland and from Senegal to Kenya. Most of the authors are young African academics. The focus of the volume is the multitude of voluntary associations that has emerged in African cities in recent years. In many cases, they are a response to mounting poverty, failing infrastructure and services, and more generally, weak or abdicating urban governments. Some associations are new, in other cases, existing organizations are taking on new tasks. Associations may be neighbourhood-based, others may be city-wide and based on professional groupings or a shared ideology or religion. Still others have an ethnic base. Some of these organizations are engaged in both day-to-day matters of urban management and more long-term urban development. Urban associations challenge the monopoly of local and central government institutions.

Excerpt

The first conference under the auspices of the research programme Cities, Governance and Civil Society in Africa was convened in Bergen, Norway at the end of August 1998. The conference was entitled “Associational life in African Cities: Urban Governance in an Era of Change” and organised by the Nordic Africa Institute in conjunction with the Chr. Michelsen Institute.

The thematic background to the conference was the multitude of voluntary associations that has emerged in African cities in recent years. In many cases, they are a response to mounting poverty, failing infrastructure and services, and, more generally, weak or abdicating urban governments. Some associations are new, in other cases, existing organisations are taking on new tasks. Important research questions are: under what circumstances and in what contexts have people organised themselves, and how are local and central governments responding to popular collective action for urban development? One preliminary observation based on the papers presented in Bergen is that urban associations in Africa are a flourishing field of research. But there is still a dearth of studies on how central and local governments deal with urban civil society.

Many people contributed towards making the conference a success, first and foremost, the authors of papers, the discussants and the other participants. On the practical side, thanks are due to the conference secretaries Ingrid Andersson and Benedicte Solheim. We also want to thank the Board of the Chr. Michelsen Institute for providing supplementary funding from the “The Anniversary Fund of the Norwegian Bank for the Chr. Michelsen Institute”.

The conference in Bergen started off with a public lecture by Mark Swilling: “The Challenge of Urban Governance in Africa” A revised version of this lecture is now being published under the title “Re-casting institutional transformation in local government—the learning paradigm” in Pieterse, E., Parnell, S. and Swilling, M., (eds) South African Reconstruction: Making Developmental Local Government Work, University of Cape Town Press, 2001. Altogether, 23 papers had been prepared for the conference, drawing on material from no less than 19 different African countries. Of the 17 chapters in this book, 16 are revised versions of papers presented in Bergen, while Chapter 1 and the introductions to the sub-sections were written after the conference was held.

The preparation and publication of this book involves the efforts of many people. First, we would like to thank the contributors for their industry and, gradually, their patience in responding to yet another set of suggestions for the revision of their chapters by the editors. Annabelle Despard translated Cheikh Gueye's chapter from French. Richard Moorsom did a language check on the whole manuscript. Daniel Talje drew up the List of acronyms and the Glossary. Ingrid Andersson, assistant to the programme Cities, Governance and Civil Society in Africa has performed a variety of tasks. Among other things . . .

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