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Overridden infrastructure. Governance and mobilities in African cities

Infrastructures débordées. Gouvernance et mobilités quotidiennes dans les villes africaines

“EchoGéo” Journal

Revue « EchoGéo »

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Published on Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Abstract

Over the past decades, many cities have been developing new transport infrastructure and mobility plans. In the Global South, and specifically in Africa, these past years have been synonymous with multiple attempts to modernize mobility systems. Yet those models of mobility, along with the infrastructure that sustains them, are quickly overridden by unexpected uses, new technologies, new vehicles and means of mobility which may contradict these plans. Supposedly new means of transport of people and goods appear, which use recent technology, business models and infrastructure in a way that cannot be predicted by urban planners. Our purpose is to collect contributions that offer different examples of and viewpoints on planning, governance, actual uses of different types of infrastructure and forms of mobility across the African continent.

Announcement

Argument

Over the past decades, many cities have been developing new transport infrastructure and mobility plans. In the Global South, and specifically in Africa, these past years have been synonymous with multiple attempts to modernize mobility systems (Lombard et al., 2022). The latter reach beyond the mere renewal of infrastructure and vehicle fleets, and often consist in introducing organized transportation systems that are deemed efficient (with fixed stops and schedules, tickets and online payment options), and, more generally, letting the State back in the governance of urban and interurban mobility. Added to this, European or American data management platforms have been implemented and they compete with the locally-developed platforms (Quillerier and Boutueil, 2021). Furthermore, large urban or interurban infrastructure projects have been planned. Both dynamics share the hope of improving urban transport and reducing traffic congestion, which have often been shown as symptoms of African cities’ lack of development, but their delivery and their success are yet to be proven. Those who execute such projects and international institutions promote their implementation as a means for the economic development of the continent – the latter being seen through the lens of neoliberalism.

Yet those models of mobility, along with the infrastructure that sustains them, are quickly overridden by unexpected uses, new technologies, new vehicles and means of mobility which may contradict these plans. Supposedly new means of transport of people and goods appear, which use recent technology, business models and infrastructure in a way that cannot be predicted by urban planners, and which are often at the limits of legality and of traffic rules, destructuring the infrastructure they use. New forms of mobility intertwine and blend with those which have already been established, and with forms of work governance and organization that shape them differently depending on the context. Finally, some passenger and/or goods transport companies complete their services by relying on unlicensed actors (Lambertz, 2018; Cissokho, 2022).

Our purpose is to collect contributions that offer different examples of and viewpoints on planning, governance, actual uses of different types of infrastructure and forms of mobility across the African continent (Horta and Aricó, 2017). The contributions will underline the contentious dimension of infrastructure and forms of mobility, and emphasize how important it is to take into account behaviors in uses and mobility, the forms of sociocultural inertia that map the spaces they cut across or how they may impact the prospects of inclusive urban planning.

In keeping with this reasoning, we propose to start with the idea of overriding infrastructure – or bypassing it (Chauvin et al., 2017) – precisely in order to appreciate the discrepancy between planning, uses and practices and their governance. We also wish to lay emphasis on a comparative approach that will tackle these issues as global dynamics into which metropolises of the Global South and, more precisely, African ones feed.

Expected contributions

Contributions may be guided by three research axes.

Megaprojects: political agenda, implementation and failure

Urban and infrastructure megaprojects are ubiquitous in the field examined in this issue. They are often shown as a display of the State’s power and of its ability to take initiative and to invest (Jarrige et al., 2018). They draw upon and convey imaginaries of modernity which encompass broader debates on references and role models (cf. the special issue coordinated by Peyroux and Sanjuan, 2016). Yet their implementation and their functioning are not devoid of conflicts, evictions and violence (Rodgers and O’Neil, 2012), and don’t always take into account the actual uses and needs, which often end up going over technical planning.

What imaginaries of modernity do megaprojects convey? To what extent do they enable the State to establish itself as a skillful administrator of their implementation? Who plays a part in their execution and their operation? How does their design grapple with uses that go beyond what had been planned?

Mobilities, governance and work: privatization, “offload” and daily corruption

Many studies of the African context have focused on how diverse the governance of transportation systems can be, and on the role played by “informality” in that setting. We shall refer to approaches such as that of B. Hibou (1999), which define informality as a form of governance whose actual operation can be seen in the cracks between planned forms of regulation and their discretionary application in everyday life. Some elements and sectors operate – in part or fully – outside of state regulation, and even though it is a widespread, hegemonic and tolerated operating mode (Doherty et al., 2021; Contijoch et al., 2021), the special relation such alternative means of transport keep with the State mustn’t be overlooked. Though their daily implementation partly serves the administration’s interests and governance strategies, the fact that they dispense with formal authorization in their activity can bring about and justify forms of abuse and marginalization.

Inequalities and gender perspective in daily governance and mobilities

This axis aims to stress the importance of taking into account the diversity of needs and of travelers when tackling the planning and governance of mobility and its uses. Inequalities in access, the sense of safety or lack thereof, the eviction or exclusion of some uses or users all shape and determine users’ or workers’ experiences while producing strategies and tactics of resistance. The issues of access to urban outskirts and awareness of the mobility of women or subordinates pervade both the debates and urban intervention agendas striving to modernize transport infrastructures. This raises many questions.

To what extent and how do urban and interurban mobilities reflect broader forms of exclusion and vulnerability? How do some infrastructures include or exclude peripheral spaces? What strategies do evicted groups implement to access certain spaces or to circumvent those exclusions? How can gender perspectives contribute to building more inclusive infrastructures?

This special issue is open to submissions coming under research in geography, history, anthropology, urban studies, land-use planning or any other field whose approach and topic are relevant.

Coordinators of the issue

  • Marta Contijoch Torres, associate professor at Universitat de Barcelona-GRECS
  • Roger Sansi Roca, Professor at Universitat de Barcelona-GRECS.

Submission guidelines

All proposals must be sent to Marta Contijoch Torres (martacontijoch@ub.edu) and Roger Sansi Roca (rogersansi@ub.edu), who are the coordinators of this feature, with a copy sent to Karine Delaunay (EchoGeo@univ-paris1.fr), Editorial Secretary, who will send them to the reviewer(s)

by 30 June 2024

The feature will be published in issue n° 72 (April-June 2025).

  • The reviewers of each text will be designated by the coordinators of the dossier and the Editorial Board (composition see URL: https://journals.openedition.org/echogeo/1929) for double-blind evaluation.
  • The articles in this issue may be written in French, English or Spanish and contain between 35,000 and 40,000 characters (plus illustrations). Please refer to the author recommendations for guidelines on how to present the text, bibliography, abstracts and illustrations, as set out in the editorial guidelines (https://journals.openedition.org/echogeo/22068)
  • Texts may also be submitted on this topic for other EchoGeo’s quarterly sections: “Sur le Métier” (Geography as a professional practice), “Sur l’Image” (On Image) and “Sur l’Écrit” (On Writing). They must comply with the expectations of each section, as set out in the editorial lines: https://journals.openedition.org/echogeo/22070. For example, editors of the On Image section expect texts that provoke reflection on the status of image in geographical research and/or writing.

References

  • Chauvin E., Mareï N., Lombard J., 2017. Les circulations mondialisées en Afrique : promotion, adaptation et contournement. Géocarrefour [En ligne], vol. 91, n° 3. URL: http://journals.openedition.org/geocarrefour/10313 - DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/geocarrefour.10313
  • Cissokho S., 2022. Le transport a le dos large. Les gares routières, les chauffeurs et l’État au Sénégal (1968-2014). Paris, EHESS.
  • Contijoch M., Martínez R., Delgado M., 2021. Klandos and Jakartas. Rethinking ‘informality’ and ‘public space’ from two mobility systems in Lower Casamance, Senegal. AIBR. Revista de antropología iberoamericana [En ligne], vol. 16, n° 2. URL: https://aries.aibr.org/storage/antropologia/netesp/numeros/1602/160209e.pdf - DOI: https://doi.org/10.11156/aibr.160209e
  • Doherty J., Bamba V., Kassi-Djodjo I., 2021. Marignalité multiple et l’émergence d’un transport populaire : les taxi-tricycles ‘salonis’ à Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. Cybergeo: European Journal of Geography [En ligne], document 964. URL: http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/36056 - DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/cybergeo.36056
  • Hibou B. (dir.). 1999. La privatisation des États. Paris, Karthala.
  • Horta G., Aricó G. (coord.), 2017. Mobilitats i mobilitzacions a l’Àfrica ». Numéro thématique. Quaderns de l’Institut Català d’Antropologia [En ligne], n° 33. PDF: https://publicacions.antropologia.cat/quaderns/issue/view/4
  • Jarrige F., Le Courant S., Paloque-Bergès C. (dir.), 2018. Infrastructures, techniques et politiques. Numéro thématique. Tracés. Revue de Sciences Humaines [En ligne], 35. URL: https://journals.openedition.org/traces/8107 - DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/traces.8107
  • Lambertz P., 2018. The Vernacular Bureauracy of Taxi Logistics at the Airport of Dakar. Africa Today, vol. 65, n° 2, p. 50-70.
  • Lombard J., Mareï N., Ninot O., 2022. Les transports en Afrique : entre influences mondialisées et savoir-faire locaux ». In Peyroux E., Raimond Ch., Viel V., Lavie E. (dir.), Développement, changements globaux et dynamiques des territoires. Théories, approches et perspectives de recherche. Londres, ISTE, p. 125-142.
  • Peyroux E., Sanjuan T. (dir.), 2016. Stratégies de villes et ‘modèles’ urbains : approche économique et géopolitique des relations entre villes. Dossier thématique. EchoGéo [En ligne], n° 36. URL: https://journals.openedition.org/echogeo/14553 - DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/echogeo.14553
  • Quillerier T., Boutueil V., 2021. Concurrence entre plateformes numériques africaines et internationales de paratransit sur le continent africain. 3èmes Rencontres Francophones Transport Mobilité (RFTM), juin, Champs-sur-Marne, France.
  • Rodgers D., O’Neil B., 2012. Infrastructural violence: Introduction to the special issue. Ethnography, vol. 13, n° 4, p. 401-412.

Date(s)

  • Sunday, June 30, 2024

Keywords

  • infrastructure de transport, mobilité, ville, planification, usage social, Afrique

Contact(s)

  • Marta Contijoch Torres
    courriel : martacontijoch [at] ub [dot] edu
  • Roger Sansi Roca
    courriel : rogersansi [at] ub [dot] edu

Information source

  • Karine Delaunay
    courriel : karine [dot] delaunay [at] ird [dot] fr

License

CC-BY-4.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons - Attribution 4.0 International - CC BY 4.0 .

To cite this announcement

Marta Contijoch Torres, Roger Sansi Roca, « Overridden infrastructure. Governance and mobilities in African cities », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Tuesday, March 12, 2024, https://doi.org/10.58079/w08i

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