Call For Papers: Second Annual Urbanization and Habitable Cities Conference

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Call For Papers

Cities in much of Africa are grappling with the challenge of informality. Many also suffer from long-standing problems of disparities in service delivery, infrastructure provision, wealth distribution, and access to opportunities. A focus on informality and inequality in cities allows a critical analysis of the social and political relationships within and between actors and across spaces. This provides an understanding of the ways by which urban development processes confers advantage and disadvantage to specific categories and spaces and how the resulting inequality is consolidated. During a recent African Research Network for Urbanization and Habitable Cities meeting on 6th November 2020, the need for in-depth appraisal on informality and inequality in urban Africa was reiterated. The focus on inequality is to highlight and engage with the reality that urban Africa is today deeply divided, unequal and unfair despite making notable progress in recent years. This focus is no less important, given the new realities of the profound impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on city economies, governance and livelihoods. The pandemic has shown the implications that the dimensions of informality and the vulnerability of systems based on deep exclusion and inequities in such areas as housing, healthcare, access to economic and physical infrastructure and other important issues can have on the lives and wellbeing of urban residents.

To clearly understand whether and how urban development processes contribute to informality and the accompanying disparities, the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) Centre of Excellence (CoE) in collaboration with the ARUA-UKRI-GCRF intends to host a three-day research conference on the theme ‘the State of Informality and Inequality in Urban Africa. The focus on Informality and Inequality is in line with the objectives of the ARUA CoE to promote and provide local knowledge and workable solutions to seemingly intractable problems impeding the functionality of African Cities. The conference will seek therefore, to explore how urbanization and the development and expansion of built-up areas in African cities have had a disparate impact on different groups and spaces, and the extent to which implicit or explicit bias have operated through urban development policies and practices. By interrogating rapidly growing African cities through the lens of informality and the gulfs separating the income and quality of life of the haves from the have-nots, the conference will not only provide an opportunity for peer learning across cities but will promote new understanding of theories and approaches to conceptualizing and researching on the two concepts.

The conference will be held virtual from 29th to 30th September 2021. For those living in Nigeria, a blended format will be explored so that those wishing to participate in-person can do so at the Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development, University of Lagos, but subject to COVID-19 updates in Lagos. The conference will feature papers by researchers from diverse specialties, including housing, urban governance, economy, land and natural resources, services, environment, demography, and technology – examining how rapid urbanization, the expansion of cities, the urban planning and management practices and the different approaches to devolution and governance contribute to issues of informality and inequality in African cities. We welcome papers (empirical and/or theoretical) by researchers with or without ARUA-COI affiliations. Moreover, submissions from early career researchers particularly studies that focus on analyzing the built environment from a secondary city context or, that focus on examining the key linkages between informality and inequality in the context of urbanization and decentralization – two seminal notions currently shaping urban Africa – will be particularly welcome.

Key dates

Submission for the Call for Papers will be open from 22nd February to 31stMarch 2021.

An abstract (300 words maximum) should detail the main issues, arguments, methodology, city of focus (including name of country), structure of the paper and key words

Authors of papers accepted for presentation will be notified by 13th April and invited to submit completed papers (approximately 6,000 words), no later than 27th July 2021.

Subject to peer review, selected papers will be published under the ARUA CoE for Urbanisation and Habitable Cities research paper series, in an edited volume through an approved publisher, or as a special issue of an academic journal. Therefore, do not submit papers that will be under consideration for publication elsewhere.

  • Abstract submission deadline:                31st of March 2021
  • Notification of Abstract Acceptance:      13th of April 2021
  • Registration:                                             15th of April 2021
  • Full Paper submission:                             27th July 2021
  • Conference Dates:                                    29th & 30th September 2021

Conference Registration & Eligibility for Waiver

The conference registration fee is $25 for all categories of researchers. The following Universities/Institutions qualify for waiver:

  • University of Lagos
  • Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre
  • Obafemi Awolowo University
  • Uganda Martyrs University
  • Heriot Watt University
  • University of Ghana
  • University of Nairobi
  • University of Stirling
  • University of Zambia
  • University of Cape Town
  • University of Birmingham
  • Federal University of Technology
  • American University of West Africa, The Gambia

Abstracts should be submitted at

Enquiries about the conference can be sent to

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