The Case for Luanda
Many states in Africa have been formally democratic since the 1990s and in terms of their institutional landscape, look like electoral democracies, with constitutions, elections, parliaments, courts, local governments, private media and civic associations. Yet, in practice these institutions may not operate under the kind of political freedom and legal security that can be found in liberal electoral democracies. In spite of a growing literature on the workings of this type of ‘new authoritarianism’, there is little work on how the nature of such regimes in Africa translates to city governance. On the other hand, few studies of African cities incorporate political regime theory in their analyses. As a result, they are often either overly pessimistic or too optimistic with regard to the role of local governments and civil society in city governance. Based on a discussion of the role of the Angolan government and ruling party in the planning and governance of the capital city of Luanda, this presentation argues in favour of a more grounded understanding of the African city.
About the Speaker
Sylvia Croese is a post-doctoral fellow at the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at Stellenbosch University. Her PhD thesis, entitled Post-war state-led development at work in Angola. The Zango housing project in Luanda as a case study, looked into the ways in which distributive policies such as housing are used to contribute to regime legitimacy and survival in the city of Luanda, thereby bringing together two theoretical bodies of work: one on political regimes and one centred around urban studies in Africa. Her current research further examines how governments that are formally democratic, but authoritarian in practice manage their rapidly growing cities and how this in turn affects city dwellers’ perceptions of and engagements with the state.