New urban horizons in Africa : A critical analysis of changing land uses in the Greater Accra Region, Ghana

Sammanfattning: 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.