Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: April 2017

Part IV - Colonial Legacies and Devitalized Space


A quick glance at any major western media source will reveal the extent of Africa's problems today. Although they exist everywhere, poverty, crime, unemployment, and disease are rampant in parts of many of Africa's overcrowded and underdeveloped cities. The rapid urbanization that followed the Second World War highlighted severe problems that extended into the independence era. Many of these problems, however, find historical roots in an earlier time. The chapters in this section look at the problems of urban development today and reveal that the causes of contemporary urban impoverishment are many.

The Nigerian cities, Lagos and Ibadan, are vibrant and cosmopolitan, but they certainly have their share of what are often designated as urban problems. These cities demand that residents and visitors conscientiously emphasize personal security on a daily basis. Rising levels of poverty and crime in the independence era have been the focus of many social scientists. Laurent Fourchard, however, traces the roots of the problem to the period bounded by the economic crisis of 1929 and the end of the Second World War. The Great Depression, he argues, marked the development of new forms of urban poverty characterized by rapid growth in unemployment, prostitution, and delinquency. Growing poverty, as it does so frequently, led to a rise in criminal activities. Using administrative, police, and court records, Fourchard brings to light new information about the level of crime during the 1930s. The rapid growth in population from the start of the Second World War led to rising urban blight, but Fourchard uses the evidence to move the origins of these urban problems into the prewar period and attributes their legacy to colonial policies and practices.

Thomas Ngomba Ekali looks at the nature of urban problems today in Victoria, Cameroon, but traces their existence from the precolonial era to the present. Cameroon was unique because at various times it was under German, British, and French colonial rule, leaving a legacy of non-African ownership of urban economic social and economic systems that fostered urban underdevelopment. Economic stratification and residential segregation have long been features of Victoria. Africans were removed from particular areas and resettled elsewhere, away from European administrators and business people. Under early European rule, the Germans gave new names to streets and constructed new buildings that changed the architectural landscape, further alienating Africans from the urban space.