Back to search

FRIHUMSAM-Fri hum og sam

Political Transformation in African Cities (PACE)

Alternative title: Politisk Transformasjon i Afrikanske Byer

Awarded: NOK 8.0 mill.

In 2017, the popular Ugandan musician Bobi Wine swept into office in his country?s national elections, stunning the political establishment - and eventually challenging President Museveni in the 2021 national elections. Riding a wave of support from young, poor constituents in Ugandas capital Kampala, Wine declared that 'if the parliament won't come to the ghetto, the ghetto will come to parliament'. African cities and their politics are changing. The urban population is expanding at unprecedented rates, having profound impacts on politics, governance, and citizenship - and the UNs 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Intensified by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, spatial and demographic change in African cities is affecting political dynamics related to clientelism and service delivery, gendered and youth dimensions of political participation and populism and political entrepreneurship within the city; and conflict and contention and societal transformation beyond the city. But while research is beginning to emerge, the political dimensions of this urbanisation remain largely unexplored. This project (PACE) examines these issues, developing a new dataset on political dynamics of African cities, and collecting survey data and interview-based fieldwork in five cities: Accra, Kampala, Lagos, Lusaka and Nairobi. Led by PRIO and partnering with the University of Bristol, University of Gothenberg, University of Lagos and UC Berkeley, PACE will identify how urban growth shapes political change, highlight the societal implications of these changes and determine their relevance for the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

In 2012, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon declared that "our struggle for global sustainability will be lost or won in cities". Over 1 billion residents will be added to African towns and cities in the next 30 years, yet the political implications of this are almost unknown. Recognising the development imperative to fill this knowledge gap, PACE constitutes a continent-wide comparative research project studying how urban growth transforms politics and societies in Africa. Bringing methodological, theoretical and empirical advancement in an interdisciplinary, multi-method project, we examine processes of political change within cities, and the socio-political transformations they spur beyond the city. In WP1 we advance the evidence base by developing a continent-wide political dataset of African cities and collect survey and qualitative fieldwork data in 5 cities (Accra, Kampala, Lagos, Lusaka and Nairobi). In WPs 2 and 3, we build comparative knowledge on how urban growth shapes politics change in cities. We study: political beliefs, gendered political participation, urban micropolitics, new political parties, urban-national political movements, conflict and contention, and social transformation. In WP4 we manage communication activities through targeted channels to scholarly, policy and public audiences. We work to drive scholarly and social impact, particularly related to the goals related of the UN's SDG agenda. Led by PI Hoelscher, PACE unites the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) with field-leading early career scholars at the University of Bristol, University of Gothenburg, University of Lagos and UC Berkeley. We will produce 7 academic articles, a special journal issue and introduction, a research network on urban political change, 5 citizenship forums, a podcast, a policy report, and an international forum. In doing so we realise and communicate our objective of identifying how urban growth in Africa is affecting political and societal change.

Funding scheme:

FRIHUMSAM-Fri hum og sam