in: Megatrends Afrika Policy Brief 05 (July 2022)
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.