Urbanization and political change in Africa

Kristian Hoelscher, Nicholas M Dorward, Sean Fox, Taibat Lawanson, Jeffrey W Paller, Melanie L Phillips

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-376
Number of pages24
JournalAfrican affairs
Issue number488
Early online date27 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jul 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Kristian Hoelscher ( [email protected] ) is a Research Director at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), Norway. Nick Dorward ( [email protected] ) is a Lecturer at the School of Geographical Sciences at Bristol University, UK. Sean Fox ( [email protected] ) is an Associate Professor in Global Development at the School of Geographical Sciences at Bristol University, UK. Taibat Lawanson ( [email protected] ) is a Professor at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning and Co-Director for the Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development, University of Lagos, Nigeria. Jeffrey W. Paller ( [email protected] ) is an Associate Professor of Politics at the University of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA, and a Researcher at the Governance and Local Development Institute at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Melanie L. Phillips ( [email protected] ) is a Lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA and a Research and Evaluation Associate at School-to-School International. We extend our thanks to the editors of African Affairs and appreciate constructive comments from Nic Cheeseman and two anonymous reviewers. The authors appreciate the generous funding provided by the Norwegian Research Council as part of the project Political Transformation in African Cities (PACE), grant number 315400.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.


Dive into the research topics of 'Urbanization and political change in Africa'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this