in: Megatrends Africa Working Paper 03 (December 2022)
The discussion paper finds that urbanisation does not automatically lead to democratisation, but structures the way citizens relate to the state through settlement patterns, growing pressure on public goods and services, and improved access to education and communication technology. Urban heterogeneity is not a valid predictor for reducing the salience of ethnicity and clientelism. Ethnic identities matter for distributive politics as well as settlement patterns. While urban density facilitates collective accountability demands that often transcend ethnic and clientelist ties, the link between urbanisation and individual accountability relationships with the state is less straightforward. Political subjectivities are shaped by the experience of the limitations of the clientelist system paired with state neglect and unresponsiveness. The reviewed evidence suggests that the force to reckon with is not the middle class, but rather the poor masses. It is not enough for African governments to cater to the elites anymore, as the share of the urban poor becomes too large to ignore.