chapter  12
The political economy of urban planning in colonial
Pages 13

Colonial powers (e.g. French policymakers during the Third Republic) defended the colonial enterprise as part of a universal mission to civilize the ‘inferior races’ – or the mission civilisatrice. From this vantage point, the colonial venture in Africa was meant to liberate Africans from all forms of oppression. Thus, urban planning and cognate activities that sought to institute spatial order can be considered part of this liberating and/or civilizing mission. What is of much intellectual curiosity is not the fact that ubiquitous and empirically unverifi able reasons have been advanced to rationalize colonial planning schemes that sought to replace indigenous spatial and physical structures with European varieties. Rather, it is the fact that few (see e.g. King, 1980, 1990; Yeoh, 2003; Dovey, 1999; Home, 1997; Anyumba, 1995; Markus, 1993; Simon, 1992; Ross and Telcamp, 1985; Abu-Lughod, 1980) have paused to critically explore the ‘actual’ motives of colonial town planning projects in Africa and other erstwhile colonized regions. However, a lot more ground needs to be covered in order to promote understanding of the ‘real’ aims of the many urban planning schemes that were conceived, formulated and implemented in colonized territories in Africa in particular and the world in general.