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  • On the governing of 'gray' trading spaces in Accra

    2022. Lena Fält. IDPR. International Development Planning Review 44 (1), 81-104


    Recent studies on ‘urban informality’ stress the role of the state in the production and governing of ‘gray spaces’. This paper contributes to this body of research by emphasising the multiple actors involved in the governance of informal land uses and their ambiguous positions on how these spaces should best be understood and approached. Based on an in-depth case study of ‘gray’ trading spaces in central Accra, I show that individual landowners in the vicinity of trading spots play a crucial role in the governing of roadside trading, together with state actors and traders. Furthermore, traders and state actors are both engaged in ambiguous ‘worlding practices’ that, on the one hand, envision Accra as becoming a city where street trade is eradicated, while, on the other hand, street trade is considered to be an opportunity for urban (economic) development. These varied perspectives imply that neither traders nor state bodies are uniform actors and that these groups are not necessarily positioned against each other.

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  • New urban horizons in Africa

    2020. Lena Fält (et al.).

    Avhandling (Dok)

    African cities increasingly aspire global recognition and this has prompted a rapid transformation of the built environment in many urban locales. This thesis provides empirical and conceptual insights into this recent trend through a critical analysis of contemporary land use changes in the Greater Accra Region, Ghana. More specifically, this thesis examines the prevailing discourses on desirable urban development amongst urban planners and policy makers in this city region; how and by whom certain city visions are integrated into the built environment; how certain marginalised groups (represented by ‘informal’ street vendors and former residents of an ‘informal settlement’) respond to dominant city visions; and the socio-spatial consequences of contemporary urban interventions.

    The present thesis is based upon three qualitative case studies of transforming urban areas in the Greater Accra Region. The methods used include semi-structured interviews, observations and policy analysis. Theoretically, this thesis combines critical urban theory, the governmentality perspective and post-colonial urban theory to examine different aspects of the processes behind changing land uses and their consequences. The three cases are analysed in separate papers and discussed together in a comprehensive summary.

    The first paper analyses the logics behind a state-led demolition of a centrally located informal settlement. The paper shows that ‘conflicting rationalities’ exist between marginalised residents of informal settlements and state actors regarding their understanding of Accra’s built environment. While the demolished settlement constituted a place of affordable housing, place-specific livelihood strategies and sociability to the former residents, state authorities perceived the neighbourhood as problematic and made use of market-driven, ‘generative’ and ‘dispositional’ rationalities to justify the demolition and make space for new urban developments.

    The second paper explores the everyday governance of informal street trade in Osu, a rapidly transforming inner suburb of Accra. The paper highlights the important role played by individual landowners in the regulation of street trade in public space and demonstrates that street vendors, state authorities and landowners express ambiguous attitudes on the contemporary and future presence of informal trading in Accra due to prevailing aspirations of making Accra a globally recognised city.

    The third paper analyses the planning and materialisation of Appolonia City, a new satellite city under construction in peri-urban Accra. The paper demonstrates that far-reaching processes of privatisation in terms of land ownership, urban planning and city management are taking place through this project. Appolonia City has been enabled by state- and traditional authorities, together with the private developer, on the basis of multiple rationalities. The paper suggests that Appolonia City will become an elite development in contrast to the project’s stated goal of social sustainability.

    On the basis of the aggregated findings of the three case studies, this thesis concludes that a strong ‘global city’ ideal informs contemporary urban transformation in the Greater Accra Region; that the privatisation of communal land plays a key role in enabling (new types of) urban intervention; and that the needs of the urban poor are largely disregarded in these processes.

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  • New Cities and the Emergence of 'Privatized Urbanism' in Ghana

    2019. Lena Fält. Built Environment 44 (4), 438-460


    New cities are increasingly presented as a solution to contemporary challenges of rapidly urbanizing African cities. A growing body of research has, however, questioned the appropriateness of these megaprojects on the basis of their governance structures, underlying planning principles and target groups. Yet little is known about the local constellations of government that enable and/or hinder these megaprojects to materialize. Drawing on the notion of governmentality, this paper seeks to deepen our knowledge about how particular new cities in Africa are governed and the rationalities behind them. Through an in-depth case study of Appolonia City - a new private satellite city under construction outside Accra, Ghana - the paper demonstrates how this example of privatized urbanism has reached its recent stage of implementation through a speci fic constellation of government that includes state actors at all levels, traditional authorities and private developers. The engagement of these actors is based upon multiple rationalities, including an advanced liberal rationality that emphasizes the superiority of private-led urban development; spatial rationalities that seek to form 'world-class' environments and subjects through a strong emphasis on urban formality and ordered aesthetics; prospects of economic profit-making; and assumptions on how the 'mixed city' model can provide sustainable and inclusive urban milieus. These rationalities partly conflict and Appolonia risks becoming yet another elitist urban megaproject despite its stated aim of creating a sustainable and inclusive urban environment. There is thus an urgent need to (re-)politicize the urban question in Africa in order to enable future city developments that benefit the many and not the few.

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  • From Shacks to Skyscrapers

    2016. Lena Fält. Urban Forum 27 (4), 465-486


    Recent studies indicate that market-driven logics increasingly inform the governing of African cities. This paper explores this claim by analysing the spatial rationalities at work in the struggle over urban space in Accra, Ghana. Based on an in-depth case study of a state-led displacement of a marginalised informal settlement in central Accra that took place in September 2014, the paper demonstrates that the on-going urban transformation of this city must be understood as an outcome of multiple spatial rationalities rooted in the local urban history but also influenced by globally circulating urban ideals. While a market-driven rationality is clearly present in the state’s justification of the eviction, also ‘generative’ and ‘dispositional’ rationalities are used to legitimise this urban intervention. The paper further illustrates the conflicting rationalities between the state and the urban poor, emphasising how the former residents of the displaced settlement perceive of their former home as a place of opportunities in terms of livelihood strategies, sociability and affordable housing in contrast to the state’s problematisation of the area.

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