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Youth focus: can grassroots movements bring in girls' voices?

Data has emerged showcasing the latest trends of our demographic shift — the global population now articulates a 'youth bulge'. The UN-Population Demographic Profile (2010) show children, and 'youths', comprise 1.6bn, and 1.0bn, of the population in less-developed regions. The population is younger; and Sub-Saharan Africa is no exception. Attention is now turning to youths: what young people do, what opportunities they initiate for their families and nations, and what it means to be 'young' in the developing world. However, an important caveat requires recognition: the focus has been particularly male-focused. Our understanding of girls, within both public and private spaces, remains limited. Such is the debate in this blog post — if we are now looking at 'kids' in the city and development, what are the experiences of girls? What can we learn about the city through an engendered perspective? Fundamentally, who is responsible to grant equal rights? Two models of intervention are discussed be, each using alternative methods to provide rights for girls. However, each acts to reinforce the need to improve our understandings on 'being' a girl. Read more.

Educating new planners in Africa, but what is the future?

Within development studies a shift has been identified. An increasing sense of consciousness has emerged on whose ideas are being used to theorise development practice, whether they are applicable, and offer effective solutions. The post-development school of thought is centred on deconstructing 'universal' ideas of development. Novel viewpoints have emerged which are transforming how the 'developing' world is understood and what role citizens of the Global South can play. With post-development thought, urban researchers, and planners, are advancing new thinking to plan inclusive cities in the Global South. In a succeeding event on urbanisation at the African Research Institute, the subject matter was how urban planning in Africa is adapting for the future. Read more.

Africa's urban planning

With urbanisation becoming a rising topic on the research agenda it is interesting to see how new models for urban planning, and laws, are being constructed. Recently, an event by the African Research Institute raised such ideas. The speakers introduced how the contextual diversity across Africa required exploration, and consultants need to focus on adapting a checklist of rule making, rather than make the rules, in planning Africa's emerging cities. Current African cities were presented as 'un-planned', or in need of a re-visioned approach to become inclusive and equitable. Urban planning was the solution — a means of enabling tax reform, effective management, and equal rights to the city. However, urban planning law needed to be re-written to work for 'African cities'. Read more.

Whatever happened to Africa's rapid urbanisation?

Deborah Potts, Kings College London / Africa Research Institute

It is widely believed that urbanisation is occurring faster in sub-Saharan Africa than anywhere else in the world, as migrants move from rural to urban settlements. This is a fallacy. While the populations of numerous urban areas are growing rapidly, the urbanisation levels of many countries are increasing slowly – if at all. Natural increase, rather than net in-migration, is the predominant growth factor in most urban populations. African governments, policymakers and international donors need to acknowledge fundamental changes in urbanisation trends, and respond to the irrefutable messages these impart about urban employment, incomes and economic development. Read more.

The gamble of land: Russians in Africa

When talking about foreign investment in Africa, China springs to mind first. Chinese malls, Chinese highways, Chinese bridges. But Chinese housing? Not so much. Because like so many other investors, the Chinese failed to link the target market with the much-needed quality social housing. On a continent where mortgage markets barely exceed 5% of GDP (compare that with 40% of GDP in North America and a whopping 80% in Denmark!), owning a house is merely a dream for most — a pretty far-off dream. Read more.