Civil society participation in urban governance in Africa: supporting CSOs’ political voice for a transformation of citizen–state relations

Gutheil, Lena
External Publications (2022)

in: Megatrends Afrika Policy Brief 05 (July 2022)

Open access

Urbanisation offers great potential for Africa’s economic and social development: citizens earn twice as much in large cities compared to rural areas, and young urbanites receive on average between 2.5 and 4 years more education than their rural  counterparts. At the same time, the rapid rise of the urban population is putting a strain on Africa’s cities. While on average, city dwellers have better access to services than their rural counterparts, more than half of all citizens in sub-Saharan  African metropolises live in informal settlements without adequate access to basic infrastructure. Citizens have long demanded participation in urban governance that goes beyond elections in order to voice their concerns. Although participatory  processes have become increasingly evident in many African countries in some cities and neighbourhoods, they are still far from being institutionalised at scale. This policy brief asks why participatory approaches have not been successful thus far and analyses the challenges regarding a political mobilisation of civil society organisations (CSOs), which often face weak and fragmented state institutions. It argues that participatory processes need to be thoroughly embedded in politics in order to move beyond  particularistic gains towards a structural improvement of relations between citizens, CSOs, and local governments.

About the author

Gutheil, Lena

Cultural Anthropology


Further experts

Asimeng, Emmanuel Theodore

Urban Planning, Sustainability 

Baumann, Max-Otto

Political Science 

Breuer, Anita

Political Scientist 

Dick, Eva

Sociologist and Spatial Planner 

El-Haddad, Amirah


Fasold, Maximilian

Political Economy 

Haldenwang, Christian von

Political Science 

Houdret, Annabelle

Political Scientist 

Jauregui Fung, Franco

Architecture, Urban Agglomerations 

Leininger, Julia

Political Scientist 

Löpelt, Sarah

International environmental and development policy 

Morare, Ditebogo Modiegi

Political Science 

Nowack, Daniel

Political Science 

Roll, Michael


Zumegen, Lisa

Urban Transformation