The Politics of New Cities: Diversification of Actors and Recentralization of State Power in the Case of Diamniadio Études de l’Ifri, January 2023
The construction of new cities on the African continent is in vogue. From multifunctional urban hubs to eco-districts, the images that accompany the announcement of these projects promote an African urban future based on modernity and technology.
This trend for urban planning that claims to make a clean sweep of pre-existing approaches is not unique to African countries, whose governments are inspired in particular by North African and Asian models. However, the promotion of new cities in Africa is part of the lively debate that has been going on for several years on the rapid urbanization of the continent's countries. The creation of modern cities, organized and corresponding to the urban planning standards of international metropolises, is presented as a means of avoiding haphazard, chaotic urban development.
This paper offers a critical analysis of the policy of new cities based on an empirical study of the new urban pole of Diamniadio (PUD) in Senegal. Two key arguments are put forward in this paper. First, the analysis deconstructs the ex nihilo character of these urban projects and emphasizes that they are part of public policy trajectories. Due to its geo-economic and strategic position, Diamniadio has been at the heart of the Dakar region's territorial planning policies since at least the end of the 1990s. Secondly, new towns are far from being neutral and technical urban planning instruments; rather, they are political devices that convey interests and stimulate power games. By delimiting the boundaries of the PUD, which is presented as President Macky Sall's political footprint, the central government regains certain administrative powers, particularly in terms of land planning and allocation. In addition, the PUD reflects competition from foreign actors, both public and private, and the growing importance of emerging actors such as Turkey.