In the wake of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and Habitat III there have been important political and policy developments across the African continent. Just a few years ago scholars lamented the political denial of urbanization in most African countries, which the argument suggested, resulted in the dysfunctional forms of urban development in evidence. At a formal policy level this has shifted, starting with an explicit pro-urban stance at the African Union level, down to a commitment from many African governments to produce National Urban Policies in keeping with the new institutional normative framework promoted by the international development industry. As a result there are now two mainstream discourses—multi-level governance and decentralisation—that anchor debates about how best to restructure governmental relations to accommodate a more proactive and accommodating stance towards urbanization. These shifts call for a more critical and penetrating understanding of the politics that will get marshalled by vested interests, and the potentiality for a transformative urban agenda to find roots in changing institutional architectures. Conceptually this demands that one explore a different avenue than the two dominant approaches to the politics of urban governance. One approach seeks a magical technocratic fix in the form of an optimum institutional design that can foster genuine decentralisation and “political will”, whatever that ill-defined notion might mean. A second approach is obsessed with the continuous discovery of neoliberal governmentality and regards almost all efforts at modernisation of the public sector, formal participatory processes, multi-institution approaches to service delivery as merely evidence of exploitative intent. As the ground of formal politics and policy continue to shift, this lecture will explore the kind of political imaginary and innovations that could be invoked to offer a more grounded, generous and propositional scholarship that can contribute to the reinvention of urban governance.
This article is culled from daily press coverage from around the world. It is posted on the Urban Gateway by way of keeping all users informed about matters of interest. The opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and in no way reflects the opinion of UN-Habitat.