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The political economy of urbanisation and development in sub-Saharan Africa

Fox, Sean (2013) The political economy of urbanisation and development in sub-Saharan Africa. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis consists of a brief introduction, which situates the work within in the intellectual history of development theory, and three papers that address important gaps in our understanding about the dynamics of urbanisation and urban development in sub-Saharan Africa. The first provides an interdisciplinary, historical perspective on the dynamics of urbanisation and urban growth in the region from the colonial era to the present day. I argue that these processes are fundamentally driven by mortality decline set in motion by improvements in disease control and food security. Viewed through this lens, the widely noted phenomena of ‘urbanisation without growth’ and very rapid urban population growth in the late 20th century are not as unusual as they have often been portrayed by development economists and policymakers. The second addresses the question of why sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of slum incidence of any major world region. I argue that slums can be interpreted as a consequence of ‘disjointed modernization’ in which urban population growth outpaces economic and institutional development. I trace the origins of disjointed modernization in sub-Saharan Africa back to the colonial period and show that colonial era investments and institutions are reflected in contemporary variation in slum incidence. I argue that ‘status quo interests’ and the rise of an anti-urbanisation bias in development discourse have inhibited investment and reform in the post-colonial era. The final paper presents and tests an empirical model designed to account for variation in urban protest activity across countries in the region. The model is comprised of basic demographic, political and economic factors that theoretically influence the motives, means and opportunities of potential protestors. The results of a panel data analysis are consistent with the core hypotheses, but several unexpected results emerge. More research is required to confirm these results, clarify mechanisms and account for broader trends in contentious collective action in the region.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2013 Sean Robert Fox
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Sets: Departments > International Development
Supervisor: Beall, Jo and Dyson, Tim

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