The urban political economy of Africa’s real estate frontier

Africa is urbanising rapidly, and African cities are amongst the fastest growing in the world. Although Africa has historically been peripheral to global flows of real estate investment, dramatic urban population growth has led the continent to be promoted as a new ‘frontier’ for global real estate capital.

At the global scale, the establishment of several Sub-Saharan Africa-focused real estate funds indicates that investors have begun to take the continent seriously. At the national scale, African countries are experiencing the commodification of housing production and the increasing economic significance of the construction sector. At the urban scale, many large African cities are being transformed beyond recognition by domestic and transnational investment in real estate projects such as apartment blocks, office complexes, shopping malls and satellite cities.

This project investigates the geographical expansion of urban real estate markets in Africa through a comparative study of Accra, Ghana, and Nairobi, Kenya. It examines the role of policy and planning approaches, such as urban redevelopment, spatial planning and infrastructure-led development, in the incorporation of new territories into real estate markets. In the process, it explores the impacts of growing real estate investment on the spatial form and structure of African cities and the implications for urban inequalities regarding housing, infrastructure, land and livelihoods. Finally, this research will develop and extend the original concept of the ‘real estate frontier’ as an analytic to understand the geographical expansion of urban real estate markets in the global South.  

This research is being carried out by Tom Gillespie. It is funded by The University of Manchester Hallsworth Research Fellowship.