African Dreams: Imaginations of Urban Life and Infrastructure in the African Metropolis

The future of urbanisation in Africa hinges upon the prospects of infrastructure development in no small measure. Policymakers, investors and business-oriented think-tanks alike are imagining a future where progress and development will materialize through significant investments in new ‘smart’ and ‘climate-resilient’ cities. Yet, it is unclear whether these imagined futures are ‘the stuff of dreams or nightmares’, as South African scholar Vanessa Watson put it. The pressing realities of ‘slum urbanism’ as the dominant way of life, entrenched inequality and systematic environmental degradation and injustice are sobering reminders that technological fixes can only go so far in shaping the future of Africa’s urbanisation. A grounded appreciation of urban livelihoods, economies and politics is needed in order to grasp the complex challenges African urbanisation faces in the future.

This workshop is supported by Oxford’s John Fell Fund, the African Studies Centre, the Oxford Programme for the Future of Cities, and the Department for Continuing Education’s Sustainable Urban Development Programme.