Is the network challenged by the pragmatic turn in African cities? Urban transition and hybrid delivery confi gurations
What is a post-network city, and does this notion apply to the cities of sub-Saharan Africa? If the term means urbanised areas in which large sections of the built environment function, in the long term, without networks, then Africa’s cities could be so described. This empirical observation has given rise to numerous studies, and prompted refl ection on ways to remedy the situation (Banerjee et al. 2008; Banerjee and Morella 2011; Foster and Briceño-Garmendia 2010; Eberhard et al. 2011). The vast majority of existing studies analyse the situation as a failure of the networks, often seen as a consequence of backwardness: the network model remains both an ideal and a goal of public action, in which the focus is on overcoming the obstructing factors (decentralising, privatising, improving governance…). These studies are based on the assumption of urban convergence (Cohen, 1996), in which Africa’s urban spaces are considered as representing different stages of the pre-network city. However, a recent branch of these studies has emphasised the fact that a variety of technological advances, combined with the growing decentralisation of urban management could – by bypassing the obstacles to the extension of the integrated network – help to improve access to essential services (Botton and Blanc 2014; Foster and Briceño-Garmendia 2010; Lighting Africa 2013), thereby raising the possibility of off-network cities.