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Generative urbanization in Africa? A sociotechnical systems view of Tanzania’s urban transition

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Africa’s recent growth successes are raising hopes that its cities can generate the positive externalities needed to sustain long-term development. This paper examines the prospects for such a transformation in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. A sociotechnical systems framework is elaborated: one which conceptualizes urbanization pathways as determined by the practices, modes of governance, couplings, and multiscalar relations that constitute production, consumption, and infrastructure regimes in cities. The framework is deployed to assess whether Dar es Salaam’s industries, markets, public services, and built environments are generating distributive development outcomes. The analysis shows that the city is experiencing socioeconomically and spatially uneven development driven by processes of extraversion, intraversion, and splintering. Urban regimes are thus serving a more “parasitic” role by channeling capital offshore, bringing imports onshore, and creating highly uneven distributions of basic services. The paper highlights points of intervention and the value of the conceptual approach for comparative urban research.
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Keywords: Sociotechnical systems; Tanzania; extraversion; parasitic urbanization; urban-regional development

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Graduate School of Geography, Clark University, Worcester, MA, USA 2: Department of Geography Trinity College Dublin, University of Dublin College Green, Dublin, Ireland

Publication date: January 2, 2019

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