Governing Infrastructure Interfaces

Cities, technical systems and institutional connections

Governing Infrastructure Interfaces focuses on transport and sanitation infrastructure in Ethiopia’s two largest cities to investigate the relationship between development goals and the contribution made by new infrastructure.

This project investigates the governance of urban infrastructure interfaces in two Ethiopian cities, the capital Addis Ababa and the second largest city Dire Dawa. The interfaces or connection points bring together different technical characteristics (e.g. large/small scale), governance regimes (e.g. formal/informal) and disciplinary expertise (e.g. engineering/social policy).

Understanding the boundaries between infrastructure interfaces tends to be neglected in urban research. Yet it is here where many critical questions for cities arise: who governs, who decides, who funds? Based on comparative case study methods, this project will examine two interfaces: transport (rail/local transport) and sanitation (city-wide/local) infrastructures in each of the two case study cities. Combining socio-spatial analysis with institutional analysis of infrastructure governance, it aims to better understand the relationship between development goals and the contribution made by infrastructure rollout.

This project investigates the material infrastructure interfaces within transport and sanitation systems respectively and how these are constituted by non-technical, administrative and political governance regimes. The project recognises the fundamental role of both systems as drivers of urban growth and as critical determinants for poverty reduction and people’s well-being. It also acknowledges urban infrastructure as a hard policy instrument linked to discrete decision-making and a unique opportunity for the purposive design of cities.

Long-term urban growth and poverty elimination includes improved transport for the movement of both goods and people.  The aspiration of reducing urban poverty and inequality, embraced by Ethiopian national policies, through the African Union’s 2063 vision and via the Sustainable Development Goals, hinges on the institutional capability of making cities more attractive places to live, visit and invest in.


Project Team

Principal Investigators
Philipp Rode, LSE Cities
Jo Beall, LSE Cities

Senior Advisors
Zegeye Cherenet, EiABC, Addis Ababa University
Sue Parnell, University of Bristol 

Project coordinator
Nuno Ferreira da Cruz, LSE Cities

Liza Cirolia
Rebecca Craig
Marco Di Nunzio
Julia King
Biruk Terrefe



30 November 2018: Developing Urban Futures, Session 6, Ethiopia’s Urban Transformation 

28 February 2019 | Public Lecture hosted by LSE Festival 'New World (Dis)orders | Developing Urban Futures

22 March 2019 | PhD Debate - Common Ground beyond Disciplines: Readings on Urban Infrastructure

16 October 2019 | The Governance of Strategic Planning and Infrastructure, Emerging City Lab in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 

19 November 2019 | African Cities Today, Developing Urban Futures




Journal articles

Beall, J., Cherenet, Z., Cirolia, L., Da Cruz, N., Parnell, S., and Rode, P. (2019). Understanding infrastructure interfaces: common ground for interdisciplinary urban research?: Journal of the British Academy, London.

Working papers

Cirolia, L. and Rode, P. (2019). 'Urban infrastructure and development'. Research Strand 03 (January 2019). LSE Cities Working Papers.

da Cruz, Nuno F. (2018). 'Urban Infrastructure in Political Science and Public Administration'. Governing Infrastructure Interfaces, Research Note 03 (September 2018). LSE Cities working paper.

Philipp, Rode. (2018). 'Urban Infrastructure in Transport Studies and Planning'. Governing Infrastructure Interfaces, Research Note 02 (September 2018). LSE Cities Working Papers.

Di Nunzio, Marco. (2018). Anthropology of Infrastructure '. Governing Infrastructure Interfaces, Research Note 01 (June 2018). LSE Cities working paper


Rode, P. (2018). ‘Ethiopia’s Railway Revolution’ in Burdett, R., Rode, P. & Griffiths, P. (Eds.) Developing Urban Futures, pp. 16-17. Urban Age: London.                 



Principal Investigators
Philipp Rode Jo Beall
Senior Advisors
Zegeye Cherenet (Addis Ababa University) Sue Parnell (University of Cape Town
Project coordinator
Nuno Ferreira da Cruz
Jo Beall, Liza Cirolia, Rebecca Craig, Marco Di Nunzio, Julia King, Biruk Terrefe
Project partners
African Centre for Cities, Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction and City Development
Project funder
British Academy
Research strand
Urban Governance
2018 - 2019
The Governance of Infrastructure Interfaces: Cities, Technical Systems and Institutional Connections The Governance of Infrastructure Interfaces: Cities, Technical Systems and Institutional Connections
The Governance of Infrastructure Interfaces: Cities, Technical Systems and Institutional Connections