Peripheral urbanism in Africa: Border towns and twin towns in Africa

Isabella Soi, Paul Nugent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

There has been a proliferation of research on Africa’s borderlands over the past decade, which reflects their centrality in regional systems of trade and the rapid growth of border settlements. The development of twin towns/cities at the border, which has attracted the interest of scholars in other regions of the world, has been a distinctive feature of Africa as well. This paper examines some of the particularities of peripheral urbanism in Africa, whilst seeking to avoid a resort to continental exceptionalism. It begins by tracing some broad patterns before homing in on two sets of case-studies along the Uganda/Kenya and Ghana/Togo borders. The paper argues, firstly, for the enduring importance of colonial infrastructural investments and the policy choices that were made after independence. Secondly, it highlights the markedly different variations of scale, ranging from the border capitals of Kinshasa and Brazzaville at one end of the spectrum, through growing towns like Busia-Uganda and Busia- Kenya, to a multiplicity of smaller border settlements at the other end. Thirdly, the paper argues that administrative logics and trade dynamics have been the main drivers in the expansion of twin cities/towns, although the flight of populations from insecurity have also played a significant role in the Great Lakes region and in West-Central Africa. Finally, the paper points to a feature that has been identified in other regions as well, notably the often marked asymmetries between border settlements, which reflects the influence of deeper historical trajectories and contemporary patterns of trade and population movement alike.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1196601
Pages (from-to)535-556
JournalJournal of Borderlands Studies
Issue number4
Early online date8 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2017


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