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African urbanisation at the confluence of informality and climate change.


Year published: 2023
Categories: Journal Article
URL Link: https://doi.org/10.1177/00420980221098946

Author / Authors:

  • Finn, B. M.
  • Cobbinah, P. B.


Urban Studies, 60(3), 405–424. https://doi.org/10.1177/00420980221098946


Africa contributes the least to global greenhouse gas emissions, yet it faces climate change’s harshest consequences. Ramifications of climate change pose daunting multi-scalar urban challenges, specifically because urbanisation across most African countries is embedded in, linked to and defined by various notions of informality. However, there is limited theoretical attention to the confluence of African urbanisation, informality and climate change. This article addresses this issue by laying out three fundamental matters of this relationship. First, it analyses urban informality in the context of three domains: the informal economy, informal settlements and the state. Second, it highlights the significance of climate change to theoretical and empirical studies of informality. We propose that climate change poses challenges to the practice of informality and its contemporary theorisation, prompting new questions about how African informality is understood and framed. Finally, it discusses new perspectives on planning for climate change and urban informality that do not frame ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ approaches as necessarily mutually exclusive. Climate change fundamentally challenges life within informal economies and settlements, and its synthesis within debates on African urbanisation is urgently required. Notably, and in turn, the global discourse on climate change also requires specific attention to the theories and practices of informality.


  • Journal Article