On tackling infrastructure: the need to learn from marginal cities and populations in the Global South

by Prince K. Guma

24 Aug 2022
Journal of the British Academy, volume 10 (2022)
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Abstract: Due to complex and adverse effects of rapid urbanisation, conventional infrastructure networks in the Global South tend to be stretched in their capacity to deliver. Over the years, different studies have examined how diverse populations manage to operate successfully (albeit with constraints and limitations) despite limits on formal networks. However, most attempts have studied large and central cities at the expense of small and marginal cities. In this article, I make a case for learning from marginal cities and populations in the Global South. I highlight the need to understand better how the urban poor in smaller and marginal cities not only navigate and negotiate the absence and inadequacy of formal infrastructure, but also put together a semblance of viable life through modest, creative and sometimes improvised infrastructural and technological interventions. This, I argue is important for drawing appropriate lessons for tackling infrastructure, particularly in an age where sustainable solutions to urban and infrastructural challenges are bound to emanate not just from technical experts, but also from directly affected populations themselves.

Keywords: Infrastructure, technology, cities, urban poor, marginality, Global South.

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