Week 3 – “African Urbanism: the Global City”

Breeanna Campbell – 110671150

The theme for this week is African Urbanism: the Global City”, for this we were required to read chapters from Ato Quayson’s book titled Oxford Street, Accra. Throughout these chapters (and I imagine the rest of the book), he develops a globalized image of Accra in the reader’s minds. A couple of the ways he does this is through the demonstration of tourist population growth, and the boom in cell phone companies. The inclusion of these cell phone companies aid in the portal of a developing and globalizing city through the use of technologies. However, a question worth pondering is whether this is an accurate portal. In other words, I question whether this isolated industry is a good measure of the overall development of Accra.

Although cell phones do have their evident benefits – for example, they can help to facilitate larger networks and increase employment accessibility and opportunity – they can also way on the economic gap within the society and further segregate it. In addition to this, Quayson discusses Accra’s attempt to close this gap between the upper class and working class through the introduction of salsa dancing and fitness training. He explains how these facilities were opened to the public in order to bring everyone together and create a better relationship between the residents of the city. However, he explains how the salsa classes are, against their objectives, typically occupied by the upper class and the fitness centers are used mostly by the working class -therefore still dividing the society and not building the bridge it was founded to build. This division is rooted in the colonial history of the area, which Quayson explores throughout his introduction. I also question whether the concept of “post-colonial” (used both in this book, and in other resources) is valid.

Finally, I question if using only Oxford Street allows the author to develop an “authentic” description and presentation of this city. In my opinion, in order to really understand the city and in both a local and transnational position one needs to include more. I also wonder if Western influence is beneficial or harmful for this city and its current and future economic, and global, growth. Is this a good city for companies (both foreign and native) to invest in… or is globalization only feeding the existing gap?

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