GY470      Half Unit
Urban Africa

This information is for the 2017/18 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Claire Mercer STC.418

Dr Claire Mercer will deliver the majority of course content and will be Course Manager.

Professor Sue Parnell (Visiting Professor, LSE Cities) will deliver two lectures on the course.


This course is available on the MSc in Environment and Development, MSc in Human Geography and Urban Studies (Research), MSc in Local Economic Development, MSc in Regional And Urban Planning Studies, MSc in Urban Policy (LSE and Sciences Po) and MSc in Urbanisation and Development. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course is available to students in other departments and on other programmes where their regulations allow, and if there is space on the course. 

Course content

The course begins with three introductory weeks that provide the foundations for understanding contemporary urban Africa: the geographies and pre-histories of urban Africa; the colonial African city; and ideas that frame urban Africa.

The rest of the course will look at key issues currently facing African cities drawing on contemporary policy debates and research in human geography, urban studies, anthropology, sociology and planning studies. These include: urban economies, livelihoods and poverty; inequality; urban risk and resilience; urban governance; rural-urban connections; infrastructure and services; and urban form.


10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the LT.

There will be a Reading Week in Week 6.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 piece of coursework in the LT and 1 essay in the Week 6.

Formative assessment [1] will prepare students for the summative assessment [1], the policy brief. Across two seminar sessions students will present a draft policy brief on an issue of urban development in an African city of their choice. Students and staff will be able to peruse the draft policy briefs and comment on them in the seminars.

Formative assessment [2] students will practice essay writing by submitting a 1500 word essay, to be completed during the Reading Week, critically evaluating the concepts and ideas that frame urban Africa which were introduced at the start of the course.

Indicative reading

de Boeck F and S Baloji (2016) Suturing the city: living together in Congo’s urban worlds, Autograph ABP, London

Diouf M and R Fredericks (eds) (2014) The arts of citizenship in African cities: infrastructures and spaces of belonging, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke

Obeng-Odoom F (2016) Reconstructing urban economies: towards a political economy of the built environment, Zed, London

Myers G (2011) African cities: alternative visions of urban theory and practice, Zed, London

Parnell S and E Pieterse (eds) (2014) Africa’s urban revolution, Zed, London

Pieterse E and AM Simone (eds) (2013) Rogue urbanism: emergent African cities, Jacana Media with African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town

Quayson A (2014) Oxford Street, Accra: city life and the itineraries of transnationalism, Duke University Press, Durham and London

Robinson J (2006) Ordinary cities: between modernity and development, Routledge, Abingdon

Simone AM (2004) For the city yet to come: changing African life in four cities, Duke University Press, Durham and London


Coursework (40%, 1200 words) in the LT.
Essay (60%, 3000 words) in the ST.

Summative assessment [1] – 40% of overall mark – students will submit a 2 x A4 policy brief on an issue of urban development in an African city of their choice.

Summative assessment [2] - 60% of overall mark – a 3000 word essay – students  will submit a 3000 word essay addressing an issue of urban development in an African city from a critical perspective.

Key facts

Department: Geography & Environment

Total students 2016/17: Unavailable

Average class size 2016/17: Unavailable

Controlled access 2016/17: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills