chapter  5
Planning in French West Africa
Pages 23

Activities designed to promote as well as control urban growth and development occupied a priority place on the French colonial development agenda. The ultimate goal of these activities can be summarized under the following categories: social, economic, politico-administrative and psychological. From a social perspective, the French were bent on transforming human settlements in Africa into mini versions of French towns. To the extent that this goal was attainable, it helped in efforts on the part of French colonial authorities to recruit the calibre of offi cials required for effi cacious administration in the colonies. From an economic perspective, urban centers were seen as critical engines of colonial development. The concentration of physical and social infrastructure in one place permitted colonial authorities to reap the benefi ts associated with economies of agglomeration and scale. Politico-administratively, urban areas served as locations for government administrative activities and centres for the diffusion of the political culture of preference. This culture was rooted in the French politico-administrative philosophy, which emphasizes the centralization of power and authority. The French monarch, Louis XIV, once made the following proclamation, ‘l’état c’est moi’, implying that there was no distinction between himself and the state. Psychologically, French colonial authorities considered the introduction of so-called modern concepts and principles of spatial organization, as well as the concomitant utilization of Western building materials and techniques, as a necessary instrument in their bid to portray French culture as superior to that of Africans.