African urbanisation

A couple of quick hits around African urbanisation:

  • Via Matt Jones of Moved 2 Monrovia, I found this graph from October’s Economist on GDP and urbanisation in Africa.  Does Liberia reflect the impact of the civil war?  I don’t have strong priors on whether war might increase or decrease urbanization rates, and a quick Google Scholar search didn’t turn up any recent research.  Then again, Zimbabwe and Madagascar see the same direction of change, and their political conflicts have been much less violent than Liberia’s.

  • A list of 2013’s initiatives on urbanisation trends in Africa.
  • Lagos, already sub-Saharan Africa’s largest city, will overtake Cairo as the largest city on the entire continent this year.  (Kinshasa is currently #3, with nearly ten million people.)
  • Finally, I must recommend one of my favorite works of recent anthropology: Expectations of Modernity: Myths and Meanings of Urban Life on the Zambian Copperbelt, by Stanford anthropologist James Ferguson. Ferguson did his research for this book in Zambia in the last 1980s, when the gaps between post-independence hopes of immediate development and the realities of economic stagnation were dismayingly obvious.  He writes deftly of the range of strategies urban copperworkers used to deal with the uncertainty of the period, exploring an interesting disjunct between workers whose plans revolved around maintaining ties with rural associates and planning for a return to the land after retirement, and those who cast their lot more fully with the city, creating new urban subcultures along the way.

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