Uneven development, politics and governance in urban Africa: An analytical literature review

Working Paper 2

Michaela Collord, Tom Goodfellow and Lewis Abedi Asante

November 2021


This paper considers the foundations of contemporary African urban economies and how these intersect with the evolution of urban politics, carving a route through a wide range of existing literatures relevant to the politics and political economy of African urban development. It considers the economic and demographic drivers of urbanisation in Africa and their consequences for urban restructuring and uneven development, before turning to the forms of urban politics that have emerged alongside, responded to and also helped shape these urban economic developments. In distilling the African urban politics literature, it examines the politics of urban clientelism, collective action and street politics, the urban dimensions of electoral and party politics, the urban politics of war and conflict and, finally, the politics of urban governance and service delivery. As well as mapping the “state of the discipline” in the field of African urban politics, the paper also aims to historically and geographically contextualise the politics of Africa’s urbanisation, identify key gaps in the literature and associated debates, and indicate potential directions for future research on urban politics and political economy in Africa.


African cities, urbanisation, urban development, urban politics, urban governance, service delivery