Urbanization and political change in Africa

Journal article

Hoelscher, Kristian; Nick Dorward; Sean Fox; Taibat Lawanson; Jeffrey Paller & Melanie Phillips (2023) Urbanization and political change in Africa, African Affairs 122 (488): 353–376.

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Urbanization is transforming the human and political geography of Africa. While a growing body of research explores the urban dimensions of clientelism, contentious action, and social mobilization, there has been less attention given to the ways in which this demographic megatrend is influencing political change more broadly. We argue that the political implications of African urbanization are contingent on local conditions and experiences; there are no deterministic associations between urbanization and political change. To better understand the mechanisms linking urbanization to politics, we argue that a place-based approach is needed. We illustrate this by reviewing and highlighting how urbanization may affect (i) the nature and balance of citizen preferences; (ii) the composition, interests, and influence of elite actors; (iii) forms of political mobilization; (iv) shifting gender roles; (v) the role of civil society in political processes; and (vi) the likelihood and manifestations of contentious collective action. We conclude with a discussion of directions for further research.

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