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Politics, systems and domains: A conceptual framework for the African Cities Research Consortium

Working papers

Written by Tim Kelsall, Diana Mitlin, Seth Schindler, Sam Hickey

Working papers

African cities are critical to the continent’s prospects of achieving environmentally sustainable forms of prosperity and poverty reduction. Can Africa cities help generate processes of national economic development? Can they be transformed in ways that secure more inclusive and sustainable futures for urban residents? The answers to these questions hinge to a large extent on the political and political economy factors that shape, at different levels, how cities and their systems operate in relation to different domains of urban development. African cities are comprised of systems that produce, circulate and deliver various resources, goods and services. These systems often fail to function effectively because they are poorly resourced, weakly integrated and governed in accordance with interests and ideas that undermine inclusive forms of development. This is apparent across multiple domains of urban development, whether economic, social or relating to the built environment. This paper sets out a conceptual framework that captures how the interaction of politics and political economy with city systems is shaping the prospects of African cities to generate processes of prosperity and poverty reduction. It does this by integrating cutting-edge thinking on political settlements, city systems and urban development domains into a new and holistic framework of analysis. This framework seeks to provide new insights into the challenges of urban development in Africa and to help guide the work of the multiple political and policy actors responsible for promoting and implementing reforms in African cities.

  • Politics, systems and domains: A conceptual framework for the African Cities Research Consortium

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