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Birth of a market town in Tanzania: towards narrative studies of Urban Africa

By D. Bryceson


Sub-Saharan Africa’s social science literature has primarily focused on phenomena within the rural village context. Urban analysis is currently gaining momentum with concentration on the continent’s capital cities, and in particular the mega cities of Lagos, Kinshasa and Johannesburg. Urban settlements of more modest size and political importance have received scant attention. This article explores the urban growth dynamics of Katoro, a rapidly expanding small town in Tanzania’s northwest mining frontier. Tracing Katoro’s early origins and its growth as a regional trading centre with respect to design, natural resource utilization and service development, it is argued that the transition from rural to urban settlement is far from accidental. The practical concerns and cosmopolitan vision of the settlement’s leading early settlers set Katoro on a trajectory of demographic expansion and economic growth through successive stages of Tanzanian socialist and neo-liberalist policies. Responding to the opportunities afforded by regional gold mining and international border trade, longstanding residents and recent migrants created a thriving centre for the provision of trade and services that had ‘‘boom’’ characteristics distinct from gold strike settlements in the surrounding area. Katoro’s success must be seen in scalar terms, and raises issues about analytical biases in African urban studies. Current literature dramatizing the unpredictability and chaos of urban life in Africa’s mega cities has taken centre stage, leaving the dynamics of smaller urban settlements, foundational to the future of urban Africa largely ignored. This article seeks to address the literature’s scalar imbalance and draw attention to the meso level between individual livelihood activities and macro economic urban performance

Topics: G1
Publisher: 'Informa UK Limited'
Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1080/17531055.2011.571389
OAI identifier:
Provided by: Enlighten
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