The persistence and rise of master planning in urban Africa: transnational circuits and local ambitions

Harrison, Philip
Croese, Sylvia
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Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
Master plans have long been criticized by critical planners who have argued in favour of more strategic, collaborative and relational forms of spatial planning that can more adequately respond to local needs and realities, especially in the context of the global South. Rather than critiquing master planning, this paper seeks to interrogate its recent rise in urban Africa. Building on a review of international planning trajectories, the paper seeks to challenge dominant narratives in the Western literature around the rise and decline of master planning. Planning experiences from across the African continent illustrate how master planning was a limited practice under colonialism and emerged more strongly in early post-colonial years, while persisting through a quiet period of planning and proliferating in recent times. By exploring the diversity in the influences and approaches to master planning for new and existing cities in Africa over time, the paper positions master planning as the product of a complex array of transnational circuits and multiple local actors and ambitions which intersect across different scales. The study of master planning should therefore be considered as an important entry point into understanding and rethinking the contemporary politics of urban planning, implementation, and development in Africa.
Notes on contributors Philip Harrison Philip Harrison is the South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning, funded by the National Research Foundation and hosted by the University of the Witwatersrand. He is a town planner and served as a member of the National Planning Commission in the Office of the President from 2010 to 2015. Previously, Prof Harrison was Executive Director in Development Planning and Urban Management at the City of Johannesburg for 4 years from 2006 to 2010. Prior to that he held academic positions at the Universities of the Witwatersrand and Natal. He has published widely in the fields of city planning and regional and urban development and is currently a lead collaborator in the Making Africa Urban research project. Sylvia Croese Sylvia Croese is a senior researcher in the South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning at the University of the Witwatersrand. She is an urban sociologist and previously worked as a researcher with the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town where her work examined the localization of global urban policy in African cities, particularly the Sustainable Development Goals. She has published widely on urban politics and governance in Southern and Lusophone Africa through the lens of housing, land, urban infrastructure and mobility and currently works alongside Prof Harrison as a postdoctoral researcher in the Making Africa Urban research project.
Philip Harrison & Sylvia Croese (2022): The persistence and rise of master planning in urban Africa: transnational circuits and local ambitions, Planning Perspectives, DOI: 10.1080/02665433.2022.2053880