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New Master-Planned Cities and Local Land Rights: The Case of Konza Techno City, Kenya


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Consortia of investors, developers and architects, sometimes in collaboration with national governments, have proposed a number of new utopian urban megaprojects or 'new cities' across Africa. While such speculative, planned forms of satellite urbanization increasingly gain attention in urban development debates, empirical evidence on their impacts is lacking, particularly when it comes to access to land and livelihoods of surrounding populations. In this paper we delve into the Kenyan experiences with Konza Techno City, the newly planned city south of Nairobi envisioned to become Africa's main ICT hub or 'Silicon Savannah'. While there is currently little more than a fence that has been put up around the planned city, real life effects are clearly visible. As a buff er zone was established around the project to prevent 'informality', surrounding villages experience insecurity of land tenure and livelihoods. On the other hand, the area has attracted many people seeking opportunities or speculating on future pro fit. The case illustrates that the mere announcement of a new city can trigger various forms of direct and indirect exclusion. It also shows that the fast-tracking of the project by high government interests can cause problems for community consultation and participation, but also that the state is highly ambivalent, and has little power to prevent delays or control informal development. Rather than being a simple instance of 'land grab', spatial differences and temporal changes make for a constantly shifting landscape of actual and potential impacts. The main problem of new cities lies in the failure to accept 'informal' development as being an intrinsic part of African cities.
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New master-planned cities and local land rights: the case of Konza Techno
City, Kenya
Femke van Noorloos, Diky Avianto, Romanus Opiyo
Author manuscript published as article in Built Environment, 44(4), 2019, pp. 420-437, Part of special issue “Urban land grabs in Africa?
© 2019. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license
Consortia of investors, developers and architects, sometimes in collaboration with national
governments, have proposed a number of new utopian urban mega-projects or ‘new cities’ across
Africa. While such speculative, planned forms of satellite urbanization increasingly gain attention in
urban development debates, empirical evidence on their impacts is lacking, particularly when it
comes to access to land and livelihoods of surrounding populations. In this paper we delve into the
Kenyan experiences with Konza Techno City, the newly planned city south of Nairobi envisioned to
become Africa’s main ICT hub or ‘Silicon Savannah’. While there is currently not much more than a
fence that has been put up around the planned city, real life effects are clearly visible. As a buffer
zone was established around the project to prevent ‘informality’, surrounding villages experience
insecurity of land tenure and livelihoods. On the other hand, the area has attracted many people
seeking opportunities or speculating on future profit. The case illustrates that the mere
announcement of a new city can trigger various types of direct and indirect exclusion. It also shows
that the fast-tracking of the project by high government interests can cause problems for community
consultation and participation, but that the state is on the other hand highly ambivalent, and has
little power to prevent delays or control informal development. Rather than being a simple instance
of ‘land grab’, spatial differences and temporal changes make for a constantly shifting landscape of
actual and potential impacts. The main problem of new cities lies in the failure to accept ‘informal’
development as being an intrinsic part of African cities.
In search for ways to jump on the ‘world city’ train, governments across Africa are increasingly lured
by the promises of visionary urban mega-projects or ‘heterotopias’ (Carmody and Owusu, 2016;
Côté-Roy & Moser, 2018; van Noorloos & Kloosterboer, 2018; Watson, 2013). In recent years a
variety of, investors, developers and architects have proposed master-planned new cities for Africa,
sometimes in collaboration with national governments: van Noorloos & Kloosterboer (2018) count at
least 70 (planned and existing) from 2000-2017. Such new property investments in Africa’s cities
often take the form of entirely new master-planned cities built up from scratch as self-contained
enclaves, often at the peripheries of existing cities. This new wave of utopian new city plans is still to
some extent a drawing board exercise (the majority of the projects had not been constructed van
Noorloos & Kloosterboer, 2018), but although many of these ambitious plans are not yet realized,
their effects are already being felt.
Urban megaprojects are an important part of current mainstream global urbanism, and criticized as
‘urban revolutions from above’ (Sheppard et al., 2015) that displace the poor in favour of elitist
spaces. As part of the increasingly global flows of urban finance, knowledge and ideas, new city
master plans are springing up around Africa’s cities, which are viewed as a new global frontier of
urban investment (Côté-Roy & Moser, 2018; Watson, 2013). For governments and other national and
urban stakeholders, the temptations of shiny modern images are difficult to resist in the midst of
‘Africa rising’ rhetoric (Côté-Roy & Moser, 2018). In their glossing over (or at best ignoring) existing
cities, new master-planned city plans are criticized for envisioning elitist enclaves which do not solve
urban problems and may present new risks. They can create socio-spatial segregation through
walling and gating, and by providing housing that is inaccessible for the large majority of the urban
poor. Furthermore, they enhance fragmentation of urban governance through privatization of
service delivery in these enclaves (Cirolia, 2014; Grant, 2015; Murray, 2015; van Noorloos &
Kloosterboer, 2018; Watson, 213).
The literature on new cities in Africa has taken a variety of directions in recent years, but recurring
themes are the cities’ policy framings, planning models, and (to a lesser extent) financial flows
(Carmody & Owusu, 2016; Cirolia, 2014; Côté-Roy & Moser, 2018; Fält, this issue; Grant, 2015; van
Noorloos & Kloosterboer, 2018; Watson, 2013). One issue that is often overlooked, also by planners
and policymakers, concerns the consequences of these projects for pre-existing and surrounding
populations and their livelihoods and access to resources (van Noorloos & Kloosterboer, 2018).
Today’s African utopian new city plans provide particularly salient examples of the large-scale
speculative urban land investments that have been discussed under the concept of ‘urban land grabs’
(Klaufus et al., 2017; Steel et al., 2017; van Noorloos et al., 2018). Given the large scale of the
projected urban visions, dramatic changes in land access and use can be expected. These expected
changes are particularly problematic as many projects take place in hybrid peri-urban or ‘rurban’
spaces, which are already highly complex in terms of land governance. Against the background of
increasing land scarcity and global struggles over land rights, Africa’s new cities raise concern,
particularly given their large scale and enclave character. Analyzing Africa’s new cities through the
concept of urban land grab allows us to delve more deeply into the local effects and actual
implications on the ground, in their full complexity.
While new cities increasingly gain attention in urban development debates, empirical evidence on
their implications is lacking. What happens to surrounding people’s access and rights to resources,
particularly land? Who benefits or loses? Many of these new cities are still on the drawing board and
may not get beyond that, but the planning and early construction phases of some of the projects can
give us insights into the possible impacts. In this paper we draw from the Kenyan experiences with
Konza Techno City, the newly planned city south of Nairobi envisioned to become Africa’s main ICT
hub or ‘Silicon Savannah’.
This article is based on a 3 month field research conducted in Nairobi, Machakos and Makueni
Counties on the proposed Konza city, in February-May 2017 (Avianto, 2017). Questionnaire surveys
were conducted with inhabitants of Old Konza (28) and Malili (35) who were selected randomlythe
survey was meant to collect basic demographic and livelihoods characteristics, and a few opinions on
the project and process. Semi-structured interviews (8) were conducted with government officials,
urban planning experts, and local leaders, and informal conversations, field observations, and
transect walks with inhabitants of the 2 villages complemented the data collection. In addition, the
planning process was documented by means of planning documents, expert interviews and
secondary literature. In this way we combined qualitative data analysis on the planning process,
livelihood changes, and perceptions on impact with descriptive statistics of livelihoods, perceptions
and participation/consultation, to provide an exploratory yet holistic picture.
In this article, after presenting a literature review on new cities and urban land grabs and presenting
the conceptual framework that underlies the research, we will present a brief description of the
Konza Techno City project and its surrounding area and population. Then we briefly present the
situation in terms of land tenure and access to land in the project and the surrounding buffer zone.
After that we provide an analysis of the project’s impacts with regards to access to land, which
evolves along two lines (partly along the framework of ‘urban land grabs’ developed by Van Noorloos
et al., 2018): 1) indirect displacement chains through land tenure insecurity and speculative
development in the buffer zone, and 2) the ambivalence of actors related to the project. We
conclude that Konza cannot be analyzed as a simple instance of ‘land grab’: spatial differences and
temporal changes make for a constantly shifting landscape of actual and potential impacts. New
cities’ failure to work with urban informality is a key problem that extends also to their dealings with
surrounding communities.
Literature review and conceptual framework: new cities as urban land grabs?
Urban megaprojects are an important part of current mainstream global urbanism, and criticized as
‘urban revolutions from above’ (Sheppard et al., 2015) that displace the poor in favour of elitist
spaces. Within the neoliberal trend of intensified inter-city comparison and competition, city
governments work hard to acquire an image as ‘world cities’, which tends to result in the replication
of existing urban models in top-down ways in new places (Bunnell, 2015; Carmody & Owusu, 2016;
Côté-Roy & Moser, 2018; McCann; 2011, 2013; McCann & Ward, 2012; Roy & Ong, 2011). In that
context African cities are represented as a new global frontier of urban investment (Côté-Roy &
Moser, 2018; Watson, 2013; Sheppard et al., 2015).
The master-planned new city is one of these global urban models that is driven into African cities
through the actions of global consultancy companies, architects and planners, financial institutions
and the like (Côté-Roy & Moser, 2018; Carmody & Owusu, 2016). New master-planned cities have a
longer history in Africa, linked to post-independence new capital cities such as Abuja (Keeton &
Provoost, forthcoming), but most of the current plans are different particularly in their dependence
on private sector finance and planning. Many of these utopian visions are nowadays planned as
public-private partnerships, but governments are often relegated to providing cheap land and
putting in place regulations. For them, the temptations of shiny modern images are difficult to resist
in the midst of ‘Africa rising’ rhetoric (Côté-Roy & Moser, 2018). The building of symbolic power
through hypermodern ‘world cities’ in order to attract attention hence investment - in the global
economy is an important reason for local and national governments to become involved in such
projects (Goldman, 2011; Steel et al., 2017). In their glossing over (or at best ignoring) existing cities
in favour of global connections (Carmody & Owusu, 2016), new master-planned city plans are
criticized for envisioning elitist enclaves which do not solve but rather potentially worsen urban
problems (van Noorloos & Kloosterboer, 2018). They risk socio-spatial segregation through walling
and gating and by providing housing that is inaccessible for the large majority of the urban poor.
Furthermore, they enhance fragmentation of urban governance through privatization of service
delivery in these enclaves (Cirolia, 2014; Grant, 2015; Murray, 2015; van Noorloos & Kloosterboer,
2018; Watson, 2013). The new city developments on the African continent so far seem highly
speculative and consumptive (‘bubble urbanism’: Steel et al., 2017), rather than enhancing the
necessary productive economic development such as new industries:
Current urban investments build on existing weaknesses rather than transforming them; they
offer mostly opportunities for speculation and quick profit to be made from residential and
commercial development, thereby reinforcing the externally dependent character of
urbanisation. (van Noorloos & Kloosterboer, 2018, p.1237)
Nevertheless, some caution is needed in assessing the actual consequences of new cities, as most of
them are only in the planning phase and some may not get beyond that. Also, inevitably there will be
differentiation between new cities. Even though most new cities are developed as privatized
enclaves and therefore exclusionary by design, experiments in ‘inclusive design’ are emerging for
some cities (Keeton & Provoost, forthcoming). Inclusive and sustainable ‘mixed city’ planning is
sometimes mentioned as a specific aim, but as the case of Appolonia City (Ghana) shows, multiple
rationalities can easily overrule such ambitions in reality (Fält, this issue). Furthermore, government-
planned new satellite cities are also re-emerging, often meant as a way for authoritarian states to
provide housing for the poor and middle classes, but also to assert political authority (Croese &
Pitcher, 2019; Planel & Bridonneau, 2017). The effects of new cities are thus diverse and can only be
assessed in the long term. At the same time, urban megaprojects and master visions do create
certain types of impact from their very first planning phase onwards (De Boeck, 2011; Smith, 2017).
One type of effect that is already observable, even if the cities have not been built, concerns access
to land and the livelihoods of surrounding populations.
Large-scale urban projects can create severe land conflict and displacement, as their surrounding
spaces are hardly ever ‘empty’ (Leitner & Sheppard, 2018). While large-scale slum demolition within
cities is widely reported, the less well known instances of large-scale land development in the peri-
urban interfaces around African cities are also problematic. The suburban and peri-urban areas
around existing capital cities are exactly the places where most new city projects the satellite cities
- are planned. In these spaces in between the rural and the urban, the complexity of land governance
arrangements, with many intersecting land claims and types of tenure / governance, often leaves the
poor without much protection in the face of land development (van Noorloos & Kloosterboer, 2018).
Such concerns are the subject of a widening body of literature on global ‘land grabs’ or large-scale
land investments in the global South. While this debate used to be predominantly rural, recently
researchers have argued for a more integrated view of the rural and the urban in land investments
(see the introduction to this special issue).i For example, the transformations engendered by urban
land investments are not limited to the urban: often they profoundly transform the rural
surroundings of cities (Zoomers et al., 2017). Indeed, the impacts of Africa’s new cities reach well
beyond the city, and given their location in the peri-urban areas, their potential displacement and
livelihood impacts (due to pressure on resources and the commons) bear much resemblance to
typical ‘rural’ land grab cases. By using the concept of ‘urban land grabs’, researchers attempt to
make sense of the increasing scarcity of land and pressures on land worldwide, and the specific
configurations of these developments in the urban sphere (Steel et al., 2017 and Introduction to this
Special Issue).
The notion of urban land grabs can advance research on new cities in various ways. The literature on
new cities thus far is much focused on the policy framings, planning models and visual spectacles of
the ‘fantasies’, and somewhat on the financial flows (Carmody & Owusu, 2016; Cirolia, 2014; -
Roy & Moser, 2018; Fält, this issue; Grant, 2015; van Noorloos & Kloosterboer, 2018; Watson, 2013).
While such issues are very contributive and logical as many of these projects are still in a starting
phase, the research is inevitably often scaled at the national or global levels: what happens at the
local level is often unclear. By framing the phenomenon of new cities in land grab terms we delve
more deeply into the local effects and look at displacements, consultations and livelihood changes
which result from these new planning models, policies and financial flows.
In furthering the urban land grab debates, Van Noorloos et al (2018) have proposed three new
directions: 1) focusing on the sequential chain of effects of displacement 2) paying more attention to
the ambivalent roles and contradictory interests of different actors and 3) taking the three-
dimensional aspects of land development into account. In this article we take this framework as a
starting point and aim to further the first two of these lines with the case study of Konza Techno City
in Kenya.ii
First, focusing on the sequential chains of displacement means that displacement should not be
regarded as a one-off process, but rather as a long term development which may include various
steps and contradictory developments. Not only direct outright dispossession should be
problematized (e.g. Gillespie, 2016), but also indirect types of displacement that often occur over
longer periods of time, such as different types of gentrification, and enclosure of the commons (van
Noorloos et al., 2018). In the conversion of peri-urban spaces to new urban projects, such indirect
displacement chains often occur through the mechanisms of excluding pastoralists and other
temporary or mobile populations from access to land and other natural resources that were
previously available for use. Dell’Angelo et al. (2017) coin this phenomenon ‘commons grabbing’.
Similar exclusions occur when new land is reclaimed from the sea, impacting upon fishers’ livelihoods
(van Noorloos et al., 2018). The all-encompassing character of new cities may also reinforce the
tendency to formalize and ‘modernize’ the informal (e.g. ‘clean the city’ of street vendors, street
hawkers, etc.), thereby intensifying exclusionary mechanisms. In addition, those types of
displacement where people wholly or partly consent to their relocation (voluntary displacement) also
need to be taken seriously: the voluntary versus involuntary dualism is often blurred, particularly in
current ruralurban land grabs where people’s urban aspirations are heightened (ibid.) Hence
multiple types of accumulation, contestation and displacement can be involved (Leitner and
Sheppard, 2018).
The second argument states that a deeper investigation into the actors involved in urban land grabs,
and their changing roles and contradictory interests, is needed. While ‘land grab’ and ‘development’
are often presented as a dichotomy with rural cases frequently presented as land grabs and urban
cases as development, the urban cases of land acquisitions show us that it is not so easy to draw the
line or assign clear ‘culprits’ for land-related exclusions and displacements, due to the complex
multitude of hardly traceable actors involved (van Noorloos et al., 2018). The role of the state, for
instance, is often ambivalent: in African new cities we see the role of the state varying from being a
mere land broker to an outright urban developer (Cain, 2014; Murray, 2015; van Noorloos et al.,
2018; Watson, 2013), although the broker role seems more common. The variety of scales and state
institutions involved in any development project also urges us to see the state as consisting of
multiple, contradictory actors and interests. The state is also often unable to steer process outcomes
in these complex projects (van Noorloos et al., 2018). One example of this inability is the stalling of
many new city projects such as Wescape and Modderfontein (South Africa) and Hope City (Ghana)
(see for an overview Van Noorloos & Kloosterboer, 2018). In addition, we can mention the frequent
emergence of widespread ‘informal’ development around the new cities, as in the older ‘new city’ of
Brasilia (Scott, 1998). New migrants flock to the surroundings of planned new cities in anticipation of
economic opportunities and speculative developments, which also shows that the ideal of a unified
‘local community’ is very problematic. Analyzing the multitude and ambivalence of actors around
urban land deals is important as complicates the question who is responsible for important issues
such as consultation and resettlement, and thus whom people can turn to for fulfilling their rights.
Konza Techno City: the project and its surroundings
Konza Techno City is an ambitious new city plan in Kenya. The project is managed by a Development
Authority, a semi-governmental institution or special purpose entity working under (and reporting
to) the Kenyan Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC), which develops partnerships with
a number of (mostly international) private developers (Konza Technopolis, 2015). iii The US-based
consultancy Tetra Tech leads the master planning. A number of other consultancy companies have
also been important in advancing the project, such as the World Bank’s International Finance
Corporation (acting as a lead advisor on project structuring and bid out) and McKinsey (IFC, 2014;
Smith, 2017). While the first idea for the city emerged in 2006 at the MIC, from 2008 onwards the
planning process started. After multiple changes in project size and location, in 2010-11 the land in
the current location was bought. This greenfield site far away from existing infrastructures was
chosen for a much more ambitious plan (interview former MIC policy maker). More state investment
was thus needed before any private investment could be attracted, therefore in 2012 the Konza
Technopolis Development Authority (KoTDA) was established (IFC, 2014; interview former MIC policy
maker). In 2013, former President Mwai Kibaki broke ground in Malili to mark the commencement of
the project. Indeed, the project was planned at the very national level, primarily by the MIC (which is
the only state institute represented in the KoTDA), but with high national symbolic power and
presidential backing (see also Splinter, 2014).
This high national government interest is also clear from the fact that Konza Techno City has been an
iconic part of the Kenya Vision 2030 national development strategy from the start of this new
strategy, which aims to further the country’s economy to reach a middle income status, based on the
service sector, particularly Information and Communication Technology (ICT) (Government of Kenya,
2007; interview with MIC). Within this vision, the strategy for Nairobi ‘Nairobi Metro 2030’ aims to
reinvent the city as a ‘world class African metropolis’ and ‘an iconic and globally attractive city’
(Smith, 2017). As part of this strategy Konza Techno City was envisioned as a flagship project that
would become the Silicon Valley of Kenya’ (or ‘Silicon Savannah): a major ICT hub meant to
‘spearhead technological innovation and development’ at the national level, by attracting ‘high-tech
industries, start-ups, and universities’ and by providing national and global connectivity (Konza
Technopolis in Klaufus et al., 2017). Konza Techno City, which is planned about 60km south of Nairobi
as a satellite city, is holistic and multi-functionally planned, combining housing, offices / work, a
university, a hospital, schools, hotels, shopping, etc. The Ministry of Information and
Communications through KoTDA leases the land (5,000 ha in total) to private developers for 99 years
terms, and provides public infrastructure and regulatory guidelines. The project would create 17,000
jobs and attract 200,000 residents.
Despite government’s high ambitions, Konza Techno City has been suffering from delay and intra-
governmental conflict. While the government was responsible for developing basic infrastructure
(IFC, 2014), due to funding difficulties it lasted three years before the first infrastructure provision
slowly started, and today there is hardly any construction (apart from slight progress on roads, water
boreholes and electricity infrastructure Government of Kenya, 2018). The major part of the area to
be developed is currently just grassland with a fence. With multiple delays it is increasingly uncertain
whether the city will ever be created as envisaged (The Star, 2018). Intra-governmental problems
were blamed: KoTDA lacked the capacity to oversee urban planning and adequately deal with the
complex institutional and legal framework (Splinter, 2014; Konza Technopolis, 2015), but it also was
not autonomous enough to claim its own assigned budget from government and exert power to get
things started (Konza Technopolis, 2015; The Star, 2018). The global financial crisis probably also
played an important role (Smith, 2017) in stalling investment. It is not entirely clear how the newly
installed government (2017) intends to further the project.
The Konza Techno City site (5,000 ha), including its planned buffer zone (20,000 ha), falls within three
counties: Machakos, Makueni, and Kajiado. The area is part of the arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs),
where pastoralism is historically an important source of livelihoods. The buffer zone was established
to prevent ‘uncontrolled’ informal developments from popping up around the project, as these could
become an ‘eyesore’ and discourage investors (interview urban planning expert; Wapenaar, 2015).
The project area itself is currently not used or inhabited, but there are two main communities in the
buffer zone area: Old Konza and Malili (map 1). Both are very different in their land use, livelihoods
and histories. Table 1 outlines the basic characteristics of our survey sample in both villages (N=63).
Map 1. Areal view of Konza Techno City and its surroundings
Table 1. Main characteristics of survey sample (source: authors’ survey, N=63)
Characteristic / question Old Konza Malili
7 females, 21 males
13 females, 22 males
18-34: 18
35-51: 4
52+: 5
Missing: 1
18-34: 17
35-51: 14
52+: 0
Missing: 4
# years living in area
0-2 years: 5
3-10 years: 5
11-20 years: 5
21+ years: 13
0-2 years: 14
3-10 years: 19
11-20 years: 1
21+ years: 1
Main industry of employment
Farming / pastoralism: 9
Construction: 5
Trade & services: 6
Casual work: 4
Unemployed / other: 4
(majority of respondents farm,
some as a secondary activity)
Farming / pastoralism: 5
Construction: 5
Trade & services: 20
Casual work: 2
Unemployed / other: 3
Ethnic group
Kamba: 15
Kikuyu: 2
Maasai: 9
Other: 2
Kamba: 21
Kikuyu: 4
Maasai: 1
Other: 5
Missing: 4
Ownership of house
Rent: 10
Own: 18
Squatting: 0
Rent: 27
Own: 6
Squatting: 2
Opinion on whether
government should control
land use in buffer zone
16 agree, 47 disagree
Attended or heard of baraza
community meeting about
Konza Techno City
Yes: 13
No: 22
Yes: 10
No: 18
The community of Malili or Malili Center used to be part of the Malili group ranch which took up
much of the current Konza Techno City area (this will be explained below). The group ranch members
allocated land for a small commercial center near the Nairobi Mombasa highway, which is now
Malili Center (Mulinge, 2014). Around 2010 and 2011 the town experienced slow growth: some fixed
structures were set up, such as shops and hotels. As transect walks and informal conversations with
residents show, after the announcement of Konza Techno City in 2012, growth started to take off
more rapidly, and much land was further subdivided and sold. One respondent who had lived in
Malili for ten years explained: “It was nothing here 10-12 years ago. It was only empty land and then
people started coming here for searching new business opportunity.” The announcement of Konza
Techno City and the associated expectations also attracted large numbers of newcomers from all
over Kenya in search of job opportunities, and with hopes for better infrastructure and increasing
land prices. Urbanization intensified and more and more semi-permanent structures were set up
(transect walks and informal conversations Malili). The current population is estimated at 1,500 -
2,000. Malili’s population nowadays consists mostly of recent migrants who arrived there less than 2
years ago (40% - table 1). Most rent their house (77% - table 1), while the original shareholders of the
group ranch mostly live elsewhere (interview member of the County Assembly of Makueni). Malili
Centre has grown into a residential and commercial town, with services such as shops, kiosks,
hardware, food joints, water selling points, salons, small guest houses and road side selling. People’s
livelihoods revolve around commercial activities, services and trading (table 1).
Old Konza is a small town to the south of Konza Techno City site, with a population between 1,000
and 2,000. In the 1970s the first settlers came to this empty land and started farming and growing
livestock in a collective manner, though not under the formal group ranch policy (interviews Old
Konza). Most people in Old Konza are long term inhabitants, 64% having lived there for more than 10
years; most own their house (also 64% - table 1) and have built permanent structures. The rapid
developments of Malili have not arrived in Old Konza yet, as it is more distant from the highway.
Most people are farmers on their own lands and/or pastoralists, although often combined with other
sources of livelihood (table 1). Old Konza provides for commercial activities such as shops, food
joints, and salons, through a small market.
Land access and land tenure in and around Konza Techno City
Access to land and land tenure in the area is more complex than it initially seems. The government
bought the Konza Techno City project land in 2010-2011. It was previously part of the Malili group
ranch which had already been subdivided in 2005-6 among its more than 2,000 shareholders
(interviews inhabitants, Johari, 2015). Group ranches were set up by law in large parts of Kenya after
independence up until the 1980s, in order to increase productivity of the arid and semi-arid lands
(ASALs).vi In the case of Malili, land formerly occupied by white settlers was bought up as a group
ranch by a large group of shareholders (interviews with inhabitants; Johari, 2015). Many of the group
ranches started to subdivide and individualize land not long after establishment for various reasons
(Mwangi, 2007), in the case of Malili group ranch particularly because of internal mismanagement
and conflict which decreased profitability (Johari, 2015). After subdivision it was often difficult to
maintain livelihoods on small pieces of land (e.g. 7.8 ha in the case of Malili) and many people started
to sell their land. For Konza Techno City, the government negotiated with the directors of this group
ranch and reached an agreement for purchase. However, shareholders who had lost their plots claim
the amount they received was too little (interview member of the County Assembly of Makueni;
Johari, 2015). Hence the process has involved some conflict and fraud, including a court case.
The project’s 20,000 ha buffer zone is the major cause of contention around land use and access
nowadays. We briefly outline the basics of land tenure in Old Konza and Malili villages, to provide the
background for the analysis. As a privatized and individualized part of the group ranch, Malili
inhabitants initially mostly had individual private ownership over their subdivided land plots (DPP,
2013). However, this changed somewhat over time. Malili’s fast development in recent years took
place in the absence of planning and infrastructure provision. Hence, rapid further land subdivisions
were not formalized: land administration was overruled by the speed of developments (Mulinge,
2014; Mwau, 2013). As a result, an informal land buying and house rental market emerged, along
with semi-permanent houses and buildings. When Old Konza was established by settlers in the
1970s, the land was owned by the government and people were considered squatters, although they
were tolerated (interviews inhabitants). In the 1990s the government started giving out allotment
letters of the land to each household individually. These letters do not entail much more than a
promise and hence fail to provide strong land tenure security, which is why people are still struggling
to receive stronger types of ownership (interviews inhabitants).
Buffer zone, repulsion and attraction: displacement chains
As proposed in the concept of indirect displacement, we cannot evaluate displacement effects by
looking only at direct project land, or only at instances of actual land lease or acquisition. The
experiences around Konza Techno City show that the creation of extra infrastructure and buffer
zones can fuel displacements, and new land use and zoning regulations can create livelihood
With the aim of keeping out informal development from springing up around the project, a buffer
zone was established around the project. The investors or land owners are required to strictly adhere
to a comprehensive Local Physical Development Plan (LPDP), which sets guidelines and standards on
how the roads, sewerage, and other infrastructure within the buffer zone should be constructed
(DPP, 2013). Old Konza was assigned as a zone of ‘modern agriculture’ and Malili as a commercial
zone. The plan proposes that Malili will be further subdivided to create a sub-zone for residential
development, mainly low and medium density (Mulinge, 2014). Any construction needs to be
approved by KoTDA. At this point, any further construction or subdivision of land is frozen (Konza
Technopolis, 2017).
Table 1 shows that approximately three quarters of survey respondents are against the government
land use regulations from the LPDP. In interviews, residents explained that they are afraid to be
unable to live up to high ‘modern’ building standards and hence risked demolishing of their house, or
being bought out by high income earners and well-off investors who can meet the required
development standards. Indeed, some informal structures in Malili have been assigned as ‘to be
demolished’ (see image 1), but given project delays no further action has been taken (interview
urban planning expert). In the meantime, interview respondents indicated being more cautious to
put up permanent structures, hence much of the new structures in Malili remain semi-permanent.
Old Konza inhabitants were also afraid that the land use planning would affect their already rather
insecure land rights or outlaw their livelihoods.
Image 1. Buildings to be demolished (Avianto)
In addition, in assessing the impacts of large-scale urban plans on land use and resource rights, a
limited focus on direct displacement or expulsion of sitting land users tends to overlook important
land users and livelihoods dependent on the spaces in other ways. Particular groups which are often
overlooked are mobile and temporarily inhabiting groups such as (peri-)urban farmers (De Boeck,
2011; Zoomers et al., 2017; Shannon, in this special issue), fishers and pastoralists. Old Konza consists
of long-term (partly Maasai) inhabitants with, to some extent, pastoralist and agriculture-based
livelihoods (see table 1). The fence constructed around the Konza Techno City project site established
a barrier which prevented local pastoralists from grazing their herds of cattle in the area, which they
had traditionally used for that purpose (interview chief Old Konza). Currently pastoralists are seen
grazing cattle near the Nairobi-Mombasa highway, which poses road safety problems.
On the other hand, while some groups may risk indirect displacement, other groups may be attracted
to the area exactly because of the Konza Techno City plans, as is the case in Malili. In tandem with
population growth, high land speculation has been ongoing in Malili. Apart from people seeking
employment, many also arrive seeking an increase in land prices and quick gains. Indeed, inhabitants
and experts generally agreed that land prices have increased considerably since 2006-7, and a
number of group ranch shareholders has been able to earn a good profit. It thus shows that even if
no real construction has happened yet, the mere existence of a project plan already creates impacts.
Villagers’ views on rising land prices and speculation are mostly rather positive (interviews). While
some benefit from opportunities, the Malili settlers in majority live in rather vulnerable
circumstances (transect walks, interviews), and hopes for employment are hard to be fulfilled.
Paradoxically, many of these recent settlers now face insecurity in their access to land and
livelihoods: not only will their access to housing possibly be affected by the buffer zone regulation,
they also face extra insecurities as a result of the chaotic local land market, with rapid land transfers
and multiple claims on the same plot of land (Mwau, 2013). A potential new displacement chain is
thus set in pace.
Ambivalent actors: state vs. communities
In this section we analyze the multitude and ambivalence of actors around Konza Techno City. These
issues are key to understanding land rights, as they affect the way the state deals with land
acquisitions and with the buffer zone issue (including consultations with residents), and how people
While Konza Techno City is backed by high economic and political interests, the role of state
institutions is contradictory and the state is far from monolithic. Through KoTDA with the Ministry of
Information and Communication (MIC) as the main government institute involved, the state
performs as a land broker and provider of public infrastructure. As the project delays illustrate, this
role is not a simple one: the state seems unable to steer process outcomes in such a complex project
(van Noorloos et al., 2018). The reasons for the inability of the Kenyan state (so far) to develop the
project into a success, in spite of high level support up to the presidency, can be found in the
fragmented nature of planning in Kenya and contradictory interests within the Kenyan state (Manji,
2015). While the MIC was highly involved in advancing its vision for the project and committed to
starting construction fast, its expertise is in ICT and not in urban planning or land development. This
lack of expertise led to multiple changes in the project and failure to have public planning documents
and environmental licensing documents submitted and approved (Splinter, 2014). The clash between
ambitious objectives and institutional possibilities is also to blame: other important central
government institutions such as the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning and the National
Environmental Management Authority were not enough involved in Konza’s high aspirations and
plans from the start, and communication was ineffective (ibid.).
The state is thus an ambivalent actor in the development of new towns. This ambivalence is also
clearly visible in the scalar developments and inter-country conflicts that emerged around Konza
Techno City. The new city plans run through three different counties whose governments all claim
the project in order to enhance their image and increase tax revenues. It is important for county
governments to earn their own incomes, given Kenya’s devolution of power as outlined in the 2010
Constitution. While metropolitan governance in a city-region would potentially be a solution in this
case, the idea of metropolitan planning in Kenya (which was part of the Nairobi Metro 2030 plan)
was abolished after devolution of power to counties became the new standard in 2010 (interview
former MIC policy maker; Splinter, 2014). Despite devolution policy, in the face of new city plans
such as Konza with its overarching Development Authority, the counties hardly have any real say in
the developments, apart from being able to develop land use plans (Interview member of County
Assembly of Makueni).
The planning of the buffer zone around the Konza project is a clear example of how fragmented
governance and internal power struggles within the state have influenced local land rights. The first
plan for a buffer zone, developed by the MIC, set out to prohibit any development in the buffer zone.
However, the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning in 2014 lifted the ban on development,
providing a window for land owners to put up buildings within the framework of the Local Physical
Development Plan as outlined above (Mark, 2014). Hence at least contradictory roles and interests
within the government saved residents from having their villages completely removed. However, the
manner in which the plan will be implemented and whether buildings will be demolished is still
unclear for inhabitants (Konza Technopolis, 2017; interviews inhabitants), adding to their land tenure
While the KoTDA and MIC were overridden a few times by the Ministry of Lands and Physical
Planning, the general trend was that very high pressure was exerted by the MIC over other ministries
to advance the project quickly and disregard procedures (Splinter, 2014). This was because of the
strategic interest of Konza Techno City as a national status project within Kenya Vision 2030. From
literature worldwide it appears that when political stakes are high and projects are developed with
reference to the ‘national interest’, there is a large risk of fast-tracking procedures, which may
heighten land tenure insecurity and thwart public participation in planning (Datta, 2015; Goldman,
2011; van Noorloos & Kloosterboer, 2018). These problems indeed materialized in Konza Techno
City. Participation by and informed consultation of the inhabitants has hardly taken place. The speed
of developments as soon as the green light was given probably left very little room for this. Both
Konza and Malili dwellers largely knew about the project through the mass media (e.g. a president
speech on Konza on television), and only about half of them knew about buffer zone regulations
(survey). A bit more than a third of respondents was informed about the project through a baraza
meeting (community meeting with the chief) (table 1). The Development Authority has organized a
number of such meetings leading up to the project (interview chief Old Konza), which is a formality
to fulfil planning regulations (the 2010 Constitution as well as Environmental Impact Assessment
require public participation Government of Kenya, 2016). However, according to the Old Konza
chief, these meetings were characterized by one-way information flows, rather than actual
participation. The degree of the citizen participation was only on the ‘informing’ level. Such
participation is often dismissed as tokenism or symbolic (Arnstein, 1969).
The lack of adequate public participation does not mean inhabitants’ perceptions of the project were
necessarily negative: rather, communities were heterogeneous in their vision. Also, their opinions
have changed over time, as there turned out to be a wide gap between people’s high expectations
and the very volatile and insecure nature of the new city. People’s perceptions of the project
generally started out positively, with high expectations of employment and business opportunities
(e.g. shops) as well as urban services (interviews with inhabitants). For example, a 40-year-old
woman, working as a shop-keeper, was expecting job opportunities for her daughter who almost
finished secondary school. Other people hoped to earn a good income from selling their land. There
was also an ethnic element in the positive perception: Kamba are the main ethnic group in the area,
and bringing the project to ‘their’ land gave them pride and hope to boost their region as they feel
‘left behind’ by government. Interestingly, the Maasai minority was more critical, also because of the
limitation of their grazing land mentioned before (interviews). In any case, as many respondents
indicated, initial widespread positive perceptions of Konza Techno City in both villages have gradually
made way for scepticism due to delays and political problems. It is important to note such changes
over time in the actors’ roles and interests, which take place even before any construction has
Discussion and conclusion
This article has provided exploratory empirical evidence for African new cities’ impacts on people’s
access to land and livelihoods. It has highlighted that new cities are inserted into real places with pre-
existing activities, humans, and livelihoods which start to change and co-evolve as soon as an idea for
a new city is elaborated. We have noted that the peri-urban spaces where many new cities are
planned, are hardly ever empty, and insertion of new structures in such locations bring a risk of
displacement, both physically and economically. In Konza Techno City the potential and real
displacements were relatively small, given the low population density in the area, yet they still
provide interesting insights into the process.
In the planning of Konza Techno City south of Nairobi, a variety of land-related problems have
emerged, even long before any real construction has started. The case illustrates well that the risk of
displacement in the context of new cities includes more than only direct dispossession of land within
the project area. Over time, different types of displacement chains can evolve (van Noorloos et al.,
2018). Indirect displacement in this case took place by impeding the (partly) mobile livelihoods of
pastoralists, and potentially by the establishment of a buffer zone with new land use regulations
around the new city land tenure and livelihoods insecurity for the future is the main issue there. At
the same time, displacement chains that caused repulsion also ran parallel to processes of attraction
of new inhabitants which were drawn by new aspirations and opportunities. These new inhabitants
were not necessarily elites as is often assumed: in Malili, new vulnerable migrants coincide with land
speculators and developers.
Finally, the results of this study highlight the ambivalence of actors around new city projects (van
Noorloos et al., 2018). Konza Techno City’s powerful backing by high economic and political interests
caused a lack of quality consultation and participation of surrounding inhabitants in the project
planning. On the other hand, the fragmented and ambivalent character of the state caused huge
delays, which caused further frustration among surrounding inhabitants, who were initially more
welcoming of the project (though their views were also heterogeneous).
Indeed, this peri-urban case of land investment shows us that it is not easy to draw the line between
‘grab’ and ‘development’, or assign clear ‘culprits’: spatial differences and temporal changes make
for a constantly shifting landscape of actual and potential impacts. While the often-studied policy
framings and realities, the planning models, and the financial flows of new cities are important in
understanding how and why new cities are re-emerging in Africa (Carmody & Owusu, 2016; Cirolia,
2014; Côté-Roy & Moser, 2018; Fält, this issue; Grant, 2015; van Noorloos & Kloosterboer, 2018;
Watson, 2013), the local impacts of these projects deserve more attention in themselves. As the rural
land grab literature has shown, local impacts, views and responses to land deals are multiplex and
differ according to space and time (Sassen, 2014; Zoomers, 2010; Zoomers et al., 2017): they are in
themselves highly influenced by global processes. When the investment is peri-urban, these issues
are only intensified, and intermingled with pre-existing urban transformations, aspirations and
The main problem of new cities lies in the failure to accept ‘informal’ development as being an
intrinsic part of African cities (Pieterse & Parnell, 2014). This problem is well-known: new cities are
often planned as gated middle-class or higher-class enclaves disconnected from the real cities. What
this case of Konza Techno City also shows is that the negation of informality also clearly presents
itself in the planning of new cities’ surroundings, and thereby impacts the daily lives and prospects of
their inhabitants, by making access to land and livelihoods less secure. On the other hand, the
fragmentation of governance and the consequent delays and failure to act, have only increased
informal and speculative land developments around Konza Techno City and made it all the more
difficult to reach a utopian ‘well-planned’ vision for the country.
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i For an explanation and discussion of how the originally rural concepts of ‘land grab’ can be useful for analyzing
developments in cities, see the introduction to this special issue, as well as the work by Zoomers et al. (2017)
and Steel et al. (2017).
ii The third line of thought is less relevant here, as it focuses more specifically on the vertical dimensions of
inner-city investments.
iii The master plan for phase I is prepared by a consortium of 10 international development companies,
among which are global, US-based, Germany-based, and Kenya-based consultants, architects, and real estate
advisors, and the IT firm Cisco based in San Jose, CA, USA. (Klaufus et al, 2017)
vi A group ranch can be defined as “a livestock production system or enterprise where a group of people jointly
own freehold title to land, maintain agreed stocking levels and herd their livestock collectively which they own
individually”(Ministry of Agriculture, 1968, in Ng'ethe, 2009).
... Additionally, while more than half of the world population is currently residing in urban areas, specifically cities, almost all of the population growth around the world is projected to happen in urban areas [6][7][8]. This, cemented by the rising complexity of cities due to factors such as the increasing minimum standards of living, economic and environmental challenges, social and cultural requirements, has made planning for the future of cities an essential yet even more complex task [8][9][10][11][12]. Today, cities, and urban areas in general, have to withstand the rapid growth in population and economy, and at the same time, they have to be inclusive, safe, sustainable, dynamic, and resilient [1,6,[13][14][15][16][17]. Finally, cities have to overcome many, sometimes overwhelming, urban challenges such as effective unemployment rates, segregation, migration, political instability, pollution [12], urban sprawl, transportation ineffectiveness, law enforcement, and any significant changes/shifts due to situations such as pandemics, like the recent COVID-19 pandemic, and large scale displacement and conflicts, such as the ISIS conflict in Iraq and Syria [18][19][20][21]. ...
... Techno Cities. Techno Cities, so-called Technological Cities, are cities that merely focus on the advancement of technology and consider it the main factor in achieving some level of automation for the residents' happiness [11,13]. This theory aims to give greater prominence to service delivery and simple decision-making in the cities. ...
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... While these commentaries focus on project outcomes, there is still, however, only limited empirical attention on how the partnerships involving MNCs and local Africans are arranged, and the extent to which local communities are engaged in these projects. These projects are often framed as mutually beneficial partnerships between international investors and (sub)national bodies, where the former provides foreign capital and technical expertise in design and construction, and the latter either directly provides land or facilitates the acquisition of land (by outsiders) and necessary development permits (Cain, 2014;Fält, 2019;Grant et al., 2019;Van Noorloos et al., 2019). However, the exact nature of these partnerships, how they are brokered, what benefits accrue to each party and how local people are involved in development and governance, are rarely scrutinized empirically. ...
... However, the exact nature of these partnerships, how they are brokered, what benefits accrue to each party and how local people are involved in development and governance, are rarely scrutinized empirically. To date, there has only been speculation that these projects have proceeded without proper community engagement, particularly with low-income groups (Carmody & Owusu, 2016;Van Noorloos et al., 2019). We contend that the way the partnership is set up determines the final project outcomes, with the urban governance framework, in effect, set in motion at this critical early delivery stage. ...
‘Smart cities’ strategies are often promoted as a panacea to existing urban planning issues such as local economic development, public safety, traffic congestion, and infrastructure maintenance. While these initiatives continue to be increasingly sought out and publicly promoted by governments across the globe, little is known about the influence of smart city branding campaigns on public perceptions of such projects. To explore this dynamic, we conducted a sentiment analysis of tweets regarding four smart city projects in Africa using the NRC Emotion Lexicon. The analysis revealed strong and consistent positive associations with words annotated with the emotions of Anticipation, Trust, and Joy. Based on these cross-case trends, we speculate that given their underwhelming outputs, the larger smart city agenda and its accompanying strategic positive framing have contrived a potentially pervasive and illusionary sentiment of “smart city mirages” among the public consciousness.
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The gypseous soils have complex and irregular behavior and are found predominantly in dry and semi-dry areas of the world; when gypseous soils are wet, they collapse suddenly. This study presents an experimental investigation for using the bacterial calcium carbonate precipitation in improving the shear strength of gypseous soils. Tests were carried out on two gypseous soils collected from two different sites in Iraq, Al-Najaf city (42% gypsum content) and Al-Samawa city (54% gypsum content). Also, two ratios of bacterial solution (4 and 8%) are used to improve the cohesion and internal friction angle of the studied soils. These percentages were measured according to the dry weight of soil samples. Also, the shear strength parameters were carried out upon dry and soaking conditions. For injecting a bacterial solution into gypseous soil samples, a special injection device was developed by gravity fed to the samples and treated for four days. The precipitation of calcite causes a significant increase in the angle of internal friction and cohesion of gypseous soils by increasing the ratio of injected bacterial solution in both dry and soaking conditions.
Screw piles are considered one of the distinctive and unique engineering solutions because of the characteristics and advantages that it possesses such as its appropriate cost, the speed and ease of implementation and the suitability of its use with places with restricted access, with the flexibility of design and manufacture according to the conditions of the ground and the amount of forces required to resist. In this study, a series of experiments conducted on a single screw pile with a variable aspect ratio (L/D = 10, 13.33, and 20) under the influence of static pullout loads. The screw piles were inserted in soft soil of unit weight (18.72 kN/m3) and moisture content (30.19%) and with a liquid limit = 55%, and plasticity index = 32. A physical model with a laboratory scale was designed for this purpose and instrumented with the necessary equipment. The load-settlement curves and from these curves were used to calculate the ultimate pullout capacity of screw piles by adopting the failure criterion of settlement equals to 20% of helix diameter. The results of experimental tests showed a significant increase in the pullout capacity of screw piles in comparison with an ordinary pile (426.6, 766.67, 1186.67) %. Also, the results showed increasing the pullout capacity of piles with increasing the aspect ratio and well agreed with those obtained theoretically.
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The steel helical (screw) piles are a type of deep foundation that consists of a square or circular shaft and one or more from helical bearing plates. This study is devoted to simulating the behavior of helical piles under static and seismic loadings numerically. Moreover, the lateral performance of helical piles under seismic loading was investigated. Two types of helical piles, HPC1 and HPC2, were analyzed numerically using PLAXIS 3D software, and results were compared with those obtained from a field study conducted by other researchers. The axial static load was applied to both types of screw piles, while the seismic loading was applied only to (HPC1) with two intensities of spectral acceleration (0.28 and 0.47 g). The static failure load obtained from numerical analysis corresponding to displacement about 5% of helix diameter well agreed with those measured experimentally. The failure pattern for a helical pile of spacing to diameter ratio (S/D = 3) was individual plate bearing, while for the helical pile with (S/D = 2), the failure pattern was a cylindrical shear failure. Also, the application of lateral dynamic loading at the top of the helical pile reduces the axial failure capacity of such piles under seismic loading. The zone of maximum displacement of helical piles under seismic loading extended from the top of the pile to a distance of 20% from pile length.
The design of the shallow foundation of oil tanks is the prime concern for civil engineers as these are important structures for the industries. In this paper, a field case study has been taken into account where the stability of an oil tank required to be installed at Sidhpur in Gujarat, India. The behavior of oil tank foundation has been investigated using finite element tool PLAXIS-3D. It has been comprehended from the soil investigation results and numerical analysis that the oil tank could not be filled completely with oil at the present site condition due to large differential settlement. The maximum vertical settlement of 96.80 and 136.2 mm has been found from the numerical analysis for the case of present site condition and considering water level at the ground surface. Moreover, a soil improvement technique has been proposed to reduce the settlement and enhance the stability of oil tank. Finally, a maximum vertical settlement of 54.88 mm has been observed for improved soil considering water level at the ground surface, and the influence of earthquake loading on the stability of the tank is found negligible.
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The present paper aims to study the behavior of piles group surrounded by grout material under the effect of seismic loads. In this study, El Centro earthquake data were used as input time acceleration history with maximum peak ground acceleration (PGA) of 0.31g. Several cases were analyzed numerically to evaluate the piles group behavior under the effect of an earthquake. The first case included the impact of seismic loads on the piles group behavior without grouting; the results showed that the maximum seismic settlement was about 45 mm. The second case included improving the soil surrounding the piles with grout material at different depths and diameters. The results showed a decrease in the maximum seismic settlement value when the piles surrounded by grouting of the radius (0.5, 1, and 1.5 m) and extended to a depth of 2 and 4 m. The maximum value of settlement of the pile group was 28, 24, and 20 mm when surrounded with grouting of radius 0.5, 1, and 1.5 m, respectively, and extended to a depth of 2 m. The maximum amount of seismic settlement decreased to 25, 21, and 19 mm for grouting radius of 0.5, 1, and 1.5 m, respectively, when the grouting depth increased to 4 m.
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New private property investments in Africa’s cities are on the rise, and they often take the form of entirely new cities built up from scratch as comprehensively planned self-contained enclaves. As these new city-making trajectories are expanding and empirical research is emerging, there is a need to provide more conceptual clarity. We systematically examine the diversity of new cities in Africa; elicit their financial trajectories; and set an agenda for critically examining their actual and expected implications, by learning transnational lessons from debates on gated communities, peri-urban land governance and displacement, and older waves of new city building. Although most new cities are private-led projects, they are inserted into diverse and dynamic political economies with states ranging from developmentalist to neoliberal to absent. The consumptive and supply-driven character of many projects so far (resembling gated communities for middle and higher classes), their insertion into ‘rurban’ spaces with complex land governance arrangements, and their tendency to implement post-democratic private-sector-driven governance will make them at best unsuitable for solving Africa’s urban problems, and at worst they will increase expulsions and enclosures of the poor, public funding injustice and socio-spatial segregation and fragmentation.
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In Kenya, the Vision 2030 masterplan is radically reimagining Nairobi as a ‘world class’ city of the future. This has generated dramatic digital imagery of satellite cities, skyscrapers and shopping malls. For tenants in rundown public housing, these glossy yet speculative visions are enticing, but also provoke anxieties of exclusion. Yet so far, little has materially manifested. This article explores the effects these future vistas produce in the present, in the gap between the urban plan and its implementation. It argues that the spectacle of official planning has generated anticipatory actions, as Nairobians’ engage with the future promised by such schemes. These actions are characterised by dissonant temporal experiences, in which local residents experience the future city as both near at hand and forever out of reach.
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The global ‘land grab’ debate is going urban and needs a specific conceptual framework to analyze the diverse modalities through which land commodification and speculation are transforming cities across the globe. This article identifies new avenues for research on urban land issues by drawing on an extensive body of academic literature and concrete cases of urban land transformations in Asia, Latin America and Africa. These transformations are analyzed by focusing on three types of urban investments – investments in property, investments in public space and public services, and investments in speculation, image building and ‘worlding’ – and the way these investments are intermingled with and enhanced by processes of gentrification and speculative urbanism. Addressing real estate and infrastructure investments, speculation and gentrification through a land-based lens allows us to deepen the discussion on urban land governance in the global South. We argue that urban land acquisition cannot be thoroughly understood in isolation from the workings of urban real estate markets, public policies, and displacement processes. The urban land grab debate needs to consider the dialectic interplay between land use change and general socio-spatial transformations both in central – or recentralized – and peripheral areas. This is why we plea for a kaleidoscopic perspective on urban land governance by uncovering the complex patchwork of urban land acquisitions and their diverse temporalities and spatialities, their hybrid character in terms of actors involved, and the multiple and often unpredicted ways in which urban dwellers try to gain control over and access to urban land.
The heated controversy over “citizen participation,” “citizen control,” and “maximum feasible involvement of the poor,” has been waged largely in terms of exacerbated rhetoric and misleading euphemisms. To encourage a more enlightened dialogue, a typology of citizen participation is offered using examples from three federal social programs: urban renewal, anti-poverty, and Model Cities. The typology, which is designed to be provocative, is arranged in a ladder pattern with each rung corresponding to the extent of citizens’ power in determining the plan and/or program.
This paper explores the emerging new master-planned city-building trend on the African continent. Situating our research within urban policy mobilities literature, we investigate the 'Africa rising' narrative and representation of Africa as a 'last development frontier' and 'last piece of cake', an imaginary that provides fertile ground for the construction of new cities. Building upon research on the practices of 'seduction' that facilitate urban policy circulation, we argue for the relevance of critically examining elite stakeholder rhetoric to understand the relative ease with which the new development model is being promoted in Africa. We investigate the enablers, advocates and boosters of new cities, represented mainly by states, corporations, non-profits and consultants to render visible the complex networks of relations and private interests that support and enable the creation and circulation of the new cities model in Africa. We also analyse the pervasive 'right to development' argument among African elites, which precludes criticism of new city ventures and circulates problematic assumptions about modernity and development. We conclude by discussing how stakeholder rhetoric limits the range of urban visions that are put into circulation and mobilized for Africa's urban future.
The urban studies literature has extensively analysed the modernist, developmental or neoliberal drivers of urban restructuring in the global South, but has largely overlooked the ways in which governments, particularly those with authoritarian characteristics, try to reinforce their legitimacy and assert their political authority through the creation of satellite cities and housing developments. From Ethiopia to Singapore, authoritarian regimes have recently provided housing to the middle class and the poor, not only to alleviate housing shortages, or bolster a burgeoning real estate market, but also to ‘order power’ and buy the loyalty of residents. To evaluate the extent to which authoritarian regimes realise their political objectives through housing provision, we survey nearly 300 poor and middle class respondents from three new housing projects in Luanda, Angola. Alongside increasing social and spatial differentiation brought about by state policies, we document unintended beneficiaries of state housing and uneven levels of citizen satisfaction. We explain that internal state contradictions, individual agency and market forces have acted together to re-shape the government’s efforts to order power.
Across cities of the global South, major initiatives are underway to assemble land from informal settlements in order to make it available for large-scale infrastructure and commercial real estate projects. Driven by global city aspirations, profit-seeking developers, demands from emergent middle classes for modern residential, consumption and recreational spaces, and, last but not least, the availability of finance, these land transformations seek to commodify and enclose residential urban commons and involve the displacement of thousands of urban residents. Through an examination of two field sites, a ‘legal’ kampung where land is being acquired through negotiations between kampung residents with land rights and developers’ land brokers, and two ‘illegal’ kampungs whose residents were evicted in the name of flood mitigation, we conclude that the default theory for explaining these processes—accumulation by dispossession—is inadequate for capturing the variegated and complex nature of such processes. By thinking through Jakarta, we seek to provincialize the dominant concept of accumulation by dispossession, proposing an extension that we suggest is better attuned to capture the distinct features of Southern cities: Contested accumulations through displacement.
This article analyses the Ethiopian transition, particularly its social and political dimension based on an urban situation. It contributes to the debate over the right to the city in a dynamic way by articulating the analytical fit between political experiments and city dwelling, which are apparent in an Ethiopian context in a triangle of political emancipation, urban relocation and access to private property. It focuses on the question of access to housing in a recent condominium development on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. The article uses a situated, qualitative and localist approach to analyse the social project of housing policies, and especially the drive to create an urban middle class. It breaks down the profiles and strategies of condominium dwellers and deconstructs the mechanical link between condominium and middle class. Finally, it addresses the capacity of citizens to produce a new social – and potentially a new political – order, or conversely, to reproduce the old socio-political order.