African agency in transnational city networks: The case of the City of Johannesburg
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Regional & Federal Studies, DOI: 10.1080/13597566.2021.1962306
Transnational city networks have generally been portrayed as a more inclusive and egalitarian mode of international organizing. However, recent research has questioned these assumptions and highlighted the dynamics of power, domination and control at the heart of the functioning of these networks. These studies have also suggested a North–South power dynamic in global city networks, which seems to deny any significant agency to Global South cities in these networks. In this paper, I seek to qualify this view by analysing the manifestation of agency by an African city in a major transnational city network. I show how, despite finding itself at the bottom of the global city hierarchy, the City of Johannesburg was able to capitalize on the visionary leadership of its Mayor and a favourable domestic political alignment to direct the affairs of the United Cities and Local Governments and in the process shape global discourse on urban development.