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Persistent, pragmatic and prolific: Urban master planning in Accra, Dar es Salaam and Lilongwe

Croese, Sylvia; Robinson, Jennifer; Amedzro, Kofi Kekeli; Harrison, Philip; Kombe, Wilbard; Mwathunga, Evance; Owusu, George; (2023) Persistent, pragmatic and prolific: Urban master planning in Accra, Dar es Salaam and Lilongwe. Land Use Policy , 133 , Article 106832. 10.1016/j.landusepol.2023.106832. Green open access

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This paper interrogates the persistence of urban master planning in African cities. Critiques of master planning in Africa label it as a stifling product of colonial legacies, an inappropriate imposition of external ideas, or a device to achieve the goals of global actors, all seen as being at odds with the rapidly changing settlement patterns and needs of many African urban contexts. This paper instead focuses on the role of local planning actors in the demand for and the production of master plans and proposes a different analytical perspective on the role of master planning in African urban contexts. Notably, we point to the weak presence of master planning in colonial contexts, in contrast with the strong activation of master plans to shape the ambitions of newly independent governments. We observe also the nuanced interactions between local actors and transnational circuits and influences in devising and implementing plans. The paper presents three case studies which demonstrate the persistence of master planning practices through the post-independence period and their proliferation in contemporary moments. We document the diverse range of local actors who have chosen to retain or revise colonial planning legacies, initiate new city-wide master planning, or solicit, shape and assume responsibility for master planning promoted by transnational circuits of development and planning. We find that actors embedded in local or national institutions, and a wide variety of transnational actors, are driven by a range of, at times conflicting, interests and ideas about what planning is and is meant to do. Historical surveys and in-depth interviews with current actors, as well as those from the recent past in Accra (Ghana), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and Lilongwe (Malawi), help us to identify three aspects of urban master planning which challenge existing interpretations. We observe that master planning has been a persistent presence, although often taking a more ephemeral form in extended “silent” periods when outdated but valued plans remained operative. We note that complex political tensions and institutional landscapes shape enthusiasm for, and control over the nature, preparation, adoption and implementation of master plans, including their being side-lined or resisted – local-national dynamics are crucial here. This leads to a pragmatic engagement with transnational actors to bring forward different kinds of plans. The prolific production of master plans supported by multiple transnational actors in poorly resourced contexts constitutes a dynamic, although at times counterproductive, terrain of visioning and practical planning initiatives seeking to grapple with the pace and unpredictability of urbanisation. Our analysis provides an opening for considering the politics of urban planning from an African-centric perspective and as an active part of African urbanization.

Type: Article
Title: Persistent, pragmatic and prolific: Urban master planning in Accra, Dar es Salaam and Lilongwe
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2023.106832
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landusepol.2023.106832
Language: English
Additional information: © 2023 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Keywords: Spatial planning, Urban master plans, Planning history, Planning policy, Accra, Lilongwe, Dar es Salaam
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Geography
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10175292
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