Rapid and unplanned urban growth creates significant governance challenges, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, which is urbanizing at a faster rate than any other region of the world. Unplanned or inadequately managed urban expansion leads to pollution and environmental degradation, together with unsustainable production and consumption patterns. It also creates inequalities when the necessary infrastructure is not developed or when policies are not implemented to ensure that the benefits of city life are shared equally; urban areas are more unequal than rural areas and hundreds of millions of the world’s urban poor live in sub-standard conditions (UN 2015). As more citizens in African countries move to the cities, the governance of urban areas becomes a key challenge. Yet, our understanding of governance in the face of urbanization is grossly limited and needs further investigation.
The aim of the project
The project explores governance in the major cities of three rapidly urbanizing, low-income countries: Kenya, Malawi, and Zambia. We argue that the variation in governance and key development outcomes is driven not only by formal government institutions but also social institutions. Through a study of Kenya, Malawi, and Zambia, we examine the role of social institutions in a multi-method inquiry into how rules and norms governing ethnic and gender relations affect governance. We examine the impact of social and political institutions on the quality of governance and service provision, and on the inequalities within these based on traditional power structures of class, ethnicity, gender, and geographic location.