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Assembling Accra through new city imaginary: Land ownership, agency, and relational complexity

Author / Authors:

  • Prosper Issahaku Korah
  • Tony Matthews
  • Natalie Osborne


Habitat International, Volume 106, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.habitatint.2020.102277.


Land ownership is given little attention in scholarly accounts of how and why new city visions are mobilised and implemented in Africa. In this paper we examine the evolution of Accra City Extension Project (ACEP) — an urban strategy to modernise and respond to urbanisation pressures in the Greater Accra Region, Ghana. We trace the origins and rationale of the ACEP, the actors involved, resources, institutional capacities and their relations. Drawing on the concept of relational complexity and urban policy mobilities literature, we argue that the emergence of ACEP can be explained in two ways: as a consequence of the desire to improve the qualities of an urban area at the local level and as a product of multiple interactions and relations, which produce knowledge, specific interests, resources and constraints. The findings suggest that contemporary urban policymaking in specific places is a complex and emergent socio-political process that draws on both local and learned ideas from ‘elsewhere’. Therefore, we submit that it is more helpful to transcend the focus on what is circulating (a policy and the networks through which it is set in motion) and instead, examine how policymakers in specific contexts ‘arrive at’ their ideas through multiple influences. The project brings together diverse actors such as local and central governments, international planning consultants, UN Habitat and traditional authorities, with varying degrees of expertise, power and agendas. We find that issues around land ownership significantly structured and limited the range of visions that could be implemented.

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