Ubuntu nests and the emergence of an African metropolis
Kinyanjui, Mary Njeri
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Cities are not homogenous sociocultural entities. The city of Nairobi exhibits the phenomena of ‘cities within cities’ and ‘African city forms’. Social and economic forms of African, western and Asian cities compete for space within Nairobi. This paper refers to the African city form as the ‘African metropolis’, which exhibits the African logic, norms and values in its architecture and human social relations. The African metropolis is made up of slums, urbanized villages, self-developed urban fringes and indigenous markets. In urban literature, these spaces are referred to as informal or unplanned settlements. As drivers of this African form of urbanism, traders and artisans use the African logic, norms and values in the construction of the African metropolis. The traders and artisans contribute to the African metropolis, by hiring labour and investing surplus earnings, and are bonded into Ubuntu communities of family, friendship and ethnicity. The paper is based on data gathered through a questionnaire survey of traders and artisans. It contributes to urban theory, by showing how less dominant and subtle forces contribute to city-forming processes. I propose the concept of cultural villages as a strategy for blending African logic, norms and values with those of global urban planning.
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