Our research approach integrates systems thinking with rigorous political analysis, to provide new insights that enable African cities to be more productive, equitable and inclusive.
Our research is structured under four key themes, which will be explored over three sequential phases of work, with uptake running throughout:
inception > foundation > implementation
>> uptake >>
Theme 1: Rethinking African cities – concepts and theory
We’ll build on the applied political economy analysis approach – developed by The University of Manchester’s Effective States and Inclusive Development research centre – to combine ‘political settlements’ and ‘city of systems’ analyses into a coherent framework.
Theme 2: Understanding cities as systems
We’ll employ this framework to understand systemic challenges in 13 cities, enabling us to work iteratively across multiple levels – from everyday politics and sub-city systems, through city-level politics, to the national political settlement and transnational context that African cities are situated in.
This framework will provide new insights into the nature and causes of complex urban development problems, and their potential solutions, across our set of cities. Closely engaging with key policy actors and practitioners around these insights, we will then decide which cities and priority complex problems to focus on in the next theme.
Theme 3: Tackling priority complex problems to unlock urban systems
Building on the analysis from the first two themes, we will investigate and identify solutions to complex priority problems within five to eight cities, selected from the initial 13. By securing the required political commitment for reform in this sub-set of cities, we will pioneer new approaches to urban programming while taking into account how these can trigger more comprehensive processes of urban change.
Theme 4: Research uptake, including pathways to impact and synthesis
Running throughout the project timeline, this theme is focused on translating research findings into impact by engaging a wide range of actors within policy, practice and political spaces.
Our conceptual framework consists of three main elements: political settlements analysis, cities of systems, and urban development domains. The following diagram shows how these components relate to each other.
We will explore eight different urban development domains across a selected range of our focus cities: