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New Master-Planned Cities and Local Land Rights: The Case of Konza Techno City, Kenya

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Consortia of investors, developers and architects, sometimes in collaboration with national governments, have proposed a number of new utopian urban megaprojects or 'new cities' across Africa. While such speculative, planned forms of satellite urbanization increasingly gain attention in urban development debates, empirical evidence on their impacts is lacking, particularly when it comes to access to land and livelihoods of surrounding populations. In this paper we delve into the Kenyan experiences with Konza Techno City, the newly planned city south of Nairobi envisioned to become Africa's main ICT hub or 'Silicon Savannah'. While there is currently little more than a fence that has been put up around the planned city, real life effects are clearly visible. As a buff er zone was established around the project to prevent 'informality', surrounding villages experience insecurity of land tenure and livelihoods. On the other hand, the area has attracted many people seeking opportunities or speculating on future pro fit. The case illustrates that the mere announcement of a new city can trigger various forms of direct and indirect exclusion. It also shows that the fast-tracking of the project by high government interests can cause problems for community consultation and participation, but also that the state is highly ambivalent, and has little power to prevent delays or control informal development. Rather than being a simple instance of 'land grab', spatial differences and temporal changes make for a constantly shifting landscape of actual and potential impacts. The main problem of new cities lies in the failure to accept 'informal' development as being an intrinsic part of African cities.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2019

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  • Built Environment is published quarterly in March, June, September and December. With an emphasis on crossing disciplinary boundaries and providing global perspective, each issue focuses on a single subject of contemporary interest to practitioners, academics and students working in a wide range of disciplines. Issues are guest-edited by established international experts who not only commission contributions, but also oversee the peer-reviewing process in collaboration with the Editors.

    Subject areas include: architecture; conservation; economic development; environmental planning; health; housing; regeneration; social issues; spatial planning; sustainability; urban design; and transport. All issues include reviews of recent publications.

    The journal is abstracted in Geo Abstracts, Sage Urban Studies Abstracts, and Journal of Planning Literature, and is indexed in the Avery Index to Architectural Publications.

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