Urban Development and Planning in Africa

  • Summer schools
  • Academic Partnerships Office
  • LSE code LCS-GY202
  • Starting 2019
  • Location: Cape Town

GY202 3

Photo: Urban Development and Planning in Africa students explore Woodstock one of Cape Town’s distinct neighbourhoods.

This course explores the challenges and opportunities of African urban development, taking a close look at planning cities on the continent through intensive field engagement with sites in Cape Town while drawing critically on lessons from elsewhere in Africa.

In order to understand contemporary African cities, we examine histories of development and inequality, and contemporary dynamics in making, transforming, and managing cities. Through the work of major urban scholars – many from Africa themselves – and 5 field trips around Cape Town, we explore some of the ideologies, economic activities, and social relations through which cities are developed and planned today. Overall, the course aims to develop critical comparative thinking about urban processes in different parts of the African continent today.

The course begins with a broad introduction to regional patterns of key urban trends across Africa. We then narrow our focus to the historical legacies of colonialism, and then apartheid in the South African city. We explore how segregation continues to be built into the city through enclave and fortress spaces. We look at how division and difference in the city can be contested – and emancipatory spaces opened – as well as how the South African city is governed, secured, branded, and projected for future development. We take an especially close look at how Cape Town has attempted to represent itself as a world-class, high-design, liveable city, and participated in the pursuit of megaevents and other ways of placing itself “on the map” as an African metropolis of a very particular kind.

In the second half of the course turns to examples of African urban development from across the continent in order to deepen understanding of diverse local experiences and experiments. We first survey a range of African development “alternatives,” then closely examine a series of regional cases outside of southern Africa: (1) West African cities, (2) Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and (3) an emerging ensemble of development sites known as “the East African corridor.” Although we cultivate detailed case-based knowledge, we always focus on comparisons and potential applicability of lessons across other African cities.

In total, this course assembles a range of disciplinary perspectives – from geography, history, sociology, and urban studies – in order to delve into contemporary African urban development and planning. We take full advantage of our location in South Africa to provide field-based lessons, but we also aim to draw connections and comparisons by using wider theoretical frames as well. This enables us to analyze sites that may be geographically distant yet worth thinking about together -- to reconsider linkages between them, and bring them into larger discussions about transforming space, economy, and society in urban Africa today.

Video Play GY202

Video: 'We use Cape Town as a space to explore and think critically about a number of issues." Dr Ryan Centner,  Assistant Professor of Urban Geography at LSE discusses this exciting course.

Click here to see the full course outline

Programme details

Field trips

"I loved the field trips, which were engaging and relevant, I felt like I was touristing around Cape Town." Jonathan Siow, LSE, UK

The 2019 course will include a number of field trips in order to ground the material discussed in class. These may include, visits to:*

  • Langa, Cape Town's oldest township
  • Pinelands, Cape Town's 'garden suburb'
  • Woodstock and Bo Kaap, two central neighbourhoods facing gentrification pressures
  • Silverhurst, an elite gated estate
  • Westlake, a public housing settlement
  • De Waterkant, a hub of LGBT Cape Town
  • An urban agriculture project in Oranjezicht
  • Century City, a new city development
  • Future Cape Town, an urban policy and design think tank

*Please note that there may be some changes to the field trip locations, however you can expect a unique and bespoke tour of the milti-dimensional city of Cape Town.

Student feedback

"I loved the field trips, which were engaging and relevant, I felt like I was touristing around Cape Town." Jonathan Siow, LSE, UK

"Amazing professors, site visits were extremely helpful." Jamie Numark, Quinnipiac University, USA

"The course had a positive impact on me by introducing me to a circle of interesting people from across the globe – I say circle rather than network, as we have become friends and network sounds too cold and of cial! Our lecturers were very inspiring teachers and I learnt a lot about development issues within different international contexts and how different and similar South Africa is to the rest of world and Africa. We also got to travel the city of Cape Town – we took public transport, met local traders, chatted to them, walked through inner city areas, newly gentri ed areas, shopping malls, townships, historic quarters – we did it all! We engaged with people and experienced the city by walking through it. That is the only way to teach the course – it makes the issues come to life." Nicole Crozier, Nelson Mandela University, South Africa

 Click here to read more of our alumni testimonials.


Professor Gareth Jones

Professor Gareth Jones is a Professor of Urban Geography in the Department of Geography and Environment at LSE.

Gareth is an urban geographer at the LSE, where he teaches urban theory and ethnography on the MSc Urbanisation & Development. He is a founding member of the recently established International Institute on Inequalities at the LSE. He is also the first director of the LSE’s new Latin American & Caribbean Centre.

Gareth’s research has focused on the politics and representations of the urban poor, youth and violence, elite identities and gated communities, and comparative urban theory. He has mostly conducted research in Mexico, Brazil and South Africa, and is presently involved with an ESRC-NWO-DFG grant with colleagues at the Universities of Amsterdam and Munich on the commodification of poverty and violence in Brazil, Jamaica, Mexico, and the United States.

Dr Ryan Centner

Dr Ryan Centner is an Assistant Professor of Urban Geography in the Department of Geography and Environment at LSE.

Ryan is an urban geographer and sociologist at the LSE. He contributes to the Regional & Urban Planning as well as the Urbanisation & Development programs at the LSE.

Ryan’s research and writing focus on city transformations in connection to large-scale shifts in economic structure, development models, and political orientations. He concentrates on the local, everyday forms of these changes in neighbourhoods, symbolic landscapes, and uses of urban space. Ryan’s work has mostly delved into urban change in middle-income countries (especially Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, and Turkey). An avid fieldworker, he has collected much of the lecture material from his own time spent in cities across Africa.


There are no prerequisites for this course. 




Assessment will be based on an in-class (or "sighted") final exam worth 50% of the grade, and a series of analytical write-ups from the field visits, which would combine to the other 50% of the grade (that is, each of 4 write-ups would be worth 12.5%).

Preparatory Reading List

A full reading list and course pack will be provided to registered students approximately six weeks before the beginning of the programme, please refer to the full course outline for provisional suggested readings.

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