Globalizing the Informal City: Neoliberalism and Urban Transformation in Accra, Ghana

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Habib, Abdul Alim
Urban Informality , Urban Neoliberalism , Accra , Governmentality , African Cities , Rivanchims , Ethnicity , City Modernization
Over the last decade, and particularly the last five years, state officials in Ghana’s capital city, Accra, have intensified their resolve to ‘modernize’ the city and make it a competitive destination for global investments. In the same period, exercises by city authorities to remove or at least suppress practices of ordinary residents in the informal sector have become more frequent and intensified. Groups such as street hawkers, market women, and slum dwellers have become the main target of periodic ‘decongestion exercises’. In this dissertation I investigate how the policies and practices associated with the ‘globalizing’ and ‘modernizing’ ambition of the state intersect with the interests of the majority of urban residents whose everyday social and economic practices are concentrated in the informal sector, a sector deemed to be deleterious to the desired image for the city. I argue that contemporary city-making in Ghana is driven mainly by a combination of economic, nationalist and individual interests. In examining how cultural and social locations such as gender and ethnicity mediate the relationship between the state and residents, I demonstrate how contemporary forms of neoliberal urban governance shape, and are being shaped by, the unique historical, cultural and developmental dynamics of African cities.
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