Safety and security: Domain report

Working Paper 7

Patience Adzande, Paula Meth and Stephen Commins

February 2024


Residents of African cities are highly vulnerable to widespread manifestations of violence, including crime, political and ethnically motivated intimidation, threats to property, both housing and land rights, and gender-based violence. Drawing on mixed methods research on residents’ lived experiences and perceptions of insecurity in six African cities, namely Nairobi, Bukavu, Freetown, Mogadishu, Lagos and Maiduguri, the safety and security domain addressed broad questions regarding the meanings and lived experiences of, and response to, safety and in/security held by different urban residents; and about the range of actors and institutions involved in the production of in/security. From the city studies, safety and security were identified as broad ranging, relating to political, personal, social, health, financial, environmental, and psychological dimensions. Notions of in/security varied across the six case studies, with the lived experience approach revealing differentiated accounts. The studies illustrated the ways in which key political elite leadership and patterns of political contestation, displacement and specific neighbourhood dynamics, for example, are implicated in security outcomes in cities. Key areas of interconnectedness of safety and security with other ACRC urban development domains included informality; land markets and youthhood. Gender was also a key axis of differentiation in the analysis of in/security in African cities. All city studies indicated that the provision of security was addressed through a plurality of individuals, processes, institutions and practices. Though the studies did not provide detailed information on reform coalitions in relation to safety and security, they acknowledged the key role played by residents in African cities in maintaining safety as well as the need for more consistent engagement between government officials, the police and local communities.


Security, urban crime, urban policing, differentiation, lived experiences, plural security, African cities, security reform, security governance