Megatrends Afrika organises two panels on urbanisation and digitalisation for the EADI CEsA General Conference 2023 “Towards New Rhythms of Development”, which will take place in Lisbon, Portugal on 10-13 July 2023. Submit your proposals by 18th December 2022.
Digital technologies transform and revolutionise our economies and societies. They influence the way we work, live, and interact. From its existence as a separate cyberspace of yore, the digital, today, co-constitutes individual and societal behavior. Governmental and non-governmental actors alike seek to employ and control digital tools in their political and economic interests. In Africa, the potential for transformation is particularly high. Digitalisation uproots productive sectors, drives political mobilisation, and offers solutions to social problems. Yet inadequate governance of digital technologies poses barriers to businesses and leaves citizens’ data open to exploitation.
Adding to this, external actors, including the EU, China, and the US, are increasingly active in Africa’s digital space. They provide network infrastructure and regulation of digital content and thus create fears of Africa becoming a new battleground for great power rivalry and object to digital colonialism. This panel enquires into the nexus between digital technologies and their impact on regime types, regime change, and regime stability across Africa. The underlying question that the panel seeks to probe refers to the extent to which digital tools can be employed to either foster autocratisation or strengthen democracies.
We are seeking paper submissions that contribute to one of the following questions: (1) How do digital surveillance tools affect state control and allow for or curb democratic participation? (2) How do external actors (both Western and non-Western) engage with the African digital market place and which impact does their engagement have on both the economy and politics? (3) What new pathways for political participation does digitalisation create (participation can be considered as having both positive and negative impacts)? (4) What is the effect of digitalisation on democratic aspirations among young people? How do young people use and maximise the potential of urban and digital spaces to influence policy and or receive political and policy redress? We seek mainly empirical papers, yet make also room for broader theoretical reflections. The case studies should be concentrating on the African region and/or the region’s engagement with external partners, notably – yet not limited to – the EU, the US, and China.
Africa is the fastest urbanising continent in the world. It is projected that by 2050 two-thirds of Africans will live in cities. This rapid urban growth has received a great deal of attention from the donor community and has been defined as a major issue of international cooperation. Urbanisation has often been presented as a technical challenge for urban planners and governance, whereas its political dimension has been discussed much less. Yet, urban areas are composed of places, events, people, and institutions reflecting continuous and various forms of political action.
Local governments and municipalities compete and interact with other state and non-state actors to create rules, regulations, and norms and to oversee their implementation. The political does not only manifest itself in practices of urban governance, but also in citizens’ everyday encounters with the state. Wealthy neighbourhoods and gated communities often have privileged access to public goods and services, while citizens in informal settlements lack political voice and support. At the same time, citizens are not passive, but take to the streets demanding participation and accountability and mobilising around reforms. Moreover, opposition parties as well as populist leaders are often more successful in urban areas on the continent.
The panel aims at exploring how these developments produce “new rhythms” of bargaining, contestation, and participation and creates specific political subjectivities. We welcome contributions exploring the implications of urbanisation processes on urban politics and vice versa in Africa. More specifically, we invite papers providing case studies of what we call everyday governance, focusing for instance on actors such as local governments and the intergovernmental relations they are maintaining, bureaucrats, political parties, civil society, and social movements, and these actors’ practices. Case studies dealing with different policy sectors in which politics is revealed are welcome. African researchers are highly encouraged to apply.