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Kibera in Nairobi

Governance and African Urban Futures

The move toward democracy in Sub-Saharan Africa has enormous implications for cities.  Cities with more responsive governance, greater autonomy, and enhanced fiscal capacity may be able to better cater to the needs of their residents. Cities with jurisdiction over planning may be better able to plan more effectively for the future, including for the provision of urban infrastructure, affordable housing, and social services.  What is the impact of devolved governance—my geographic focus is Kenya—on urban futures?

Living Conditions and Informal Settlements

While there is exists a meta-narrative about the inexorable growth of slums in the Global South, we don’t know much about the lived experience—we only have rough, very generalized statistics, such as percent in poverty, number of dollars a day in income, and so forth. One reason for this is the paucity of reliable, comparable data focused on cities within and across countries. How different is life in an informal settlement in Nairobi than one in Dakar?  Do urban migrants have more opportunity and better outcomes in capital cities or in second or third tier locations?

Land Use and Property Rights

Planning in the United States operates within a highly complex institutional framework—property rights, regulations, and numerous plans created and implemented by myriad levels of government (local, regional, state, and federal).  Behind all these institutions sits the US Constitution with its guarantee that “nor shall private property be taken without just compensation.” How does the institutional framework affect planning and community development in the USA? How do we and should we talk about property and its role in our society?

Climate Change Planning and Adaptation

Localities across the globe are leading actors in our fight to slow and adapt to climate change.  Doing so effectively requires innovation and mobilization of constituencies and resources.  How are US localities responding—are new policies being created for mitigation?  For the most affected communities, what adaptation actions are being undertaken? Given that we know climate change will hit the least well off the hardest, are local governments taking into account critical dimensions of differential impacts and equity in their climate change planning?

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