The Right to the Planned City?

Planned urbanisation in Africa: New cities, towns, and urban extensions

Track Leader: Rachel Keeton (

Track organizers: Zuzanna Sekula, Javier Arpa, and Arie Romein 

Through an exhibition, a serious-gaming planning workshop, paper sessions, a book presentation, and films, this track offers new viewpoints on contemporary planned development, and looks for integrated alternatives to the siloed development processes currently shaping African cities. 

Urban planning throughout Africa is increasingly initiated, financed and constructed by private parties. As neoliberal state governments move from the role of initiator to enabler, they lose the ability to inform planning priorities. As a result, we see more private development targeting the so-called ‘middle’ and upper income groups, while less and less adequate housing is made available to lower income groups. This type of large-scale development does nothing to combat increasing housing deficits across the continent. As van Femke Noorloos and Marjan Kloosterboer warn, this may lead to increased socio-spatial segregation and, “the clustering of income groups together, based on wealth and status, which diminishes the possibility of meaningful social interaction, public debate (social contract) and possibly social upward mobility through neighbourhood effects” (2018). 

Academics, policy-makers, and practitioners commonly see top-down planning and bottom-up urbanization as two conflicting processes. Recent research has shown that comprehensively planned urban developments are often followed by unregulated communities that form at their boundaries. In this track, we want to interrogate contemporary planning paradigms, and explore opportunities for integration between top-down and bottom-up processes. What is the potential for a hybrid new form of urbanization that serves everyone instead of the elite?