Aid’s urban footprint and its implications for local inequality and governance.
Author / Authors:
Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space. https://doi.org/10.1177/0308518X20947099
First Published August 3, 2020 Research Article
This paper analyzes how local urban development, and governance therein, are being shaped by the explosion of actors within the donor and investment community in African countries like Mozambique. More specifically, drawing on qualitative fieldwork in Maputo, existing data on aid and private sector flows to Mozambique, and a spatial analysis of new real estate developments between 2009 and 2017, I forward two novel arguments about the negative externcalities fostered by the growing density of the community of international development professionals and their foreign private-sector counterparts in the Mozambican capital of Maputo. First, I show that the increasing density of international actors in the capital city and their living needs, as well as how those needs are treated by the public sector, are deepening a housing, infrastructure, and amenities divide between the rentier and international classes in the city and the majority of low-income residents. Second, I contend that the very readiness of non-tax revenue sources from international agents is enabling a continued reliance on external funding, rather than own-source revenues, for major capital investments. This balance in favor of external financing further diminishes the already weak tax bargaining potential of the local population in making demands for urban development projects that directly serve them. In conclusion, I argue that the international development organizations portending an interest in the enhancement of urban equities and fiscal responsibility across cities like Maputo especially need to rethink their operational presence to better address the perverse externalities of their physical and socio-economic imprints on the urban landscapes in which they operate.