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Changing urban governance in Ghana: the role of resistance practices and activism in Kumasi

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This article examines traders’ resistance practices in Kumasi, Ghana and their significance for changing urban governance in Africa. Conceptually, we introduce “activism” as a new variable into the present concept of urban governance as decentralization, entrepreneurialism and democratization (DED). From an empirical study in Kumasi, Ghana, findings reveal that activism by non-state actors does not only occur at the crucial earlier phases of the urban regeneration process, but extends into the subsequent phases, because urban governance is a continuous process. We demonstrate that activism and a multiplicity of resistance practices are embedded and significant dimensions of everyday urban governance in Africa. This paper argues that the additional dimension – activism – is necessary in rethinking urban governance in Ghana and Africa. This conceptualization views non-state actors not as resisters of urban governance but as activists whose resistance practices and innovations produce tangible and far-reaching changes in city governance. We learn that non-state actors do not rely on the state to control all aspects of urban governance but invent new practices to secure their socio-economic interests and provide them with leverage where they have to negotiate with or stand up to authorities. The study shows that successful change in urban governance is a function of the complementary and strategic adoption of contention, subversion and co-production. When the state perceives that the intervention of other key stakeholders legitimizes the grievances of non-state actors, it responds positively.
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Keywords: Ghana; Urban regeneration; activism; market infrastructure; traders; urban governance as DED concept

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Geography, Humboldt-Universitt Zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany

Publication date: November 26, 2019

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