MOBILITIES AND LIVELIHOODS IN DEVELOPING URBAN CONTEXTS

The TGRG and Developing Areas Research Group (DARG) jointly hosted a three-part session at the RGS-IBG annual conference on mobilities and livelihoods in low income country urban contexts. While this is the first collaborative session between these two research groups, at least in recent years, the wide-ranging discussion generated by the 13 papers presented indicates the value of bringing together researchers whose approach and prime focus may differ, but whose common concern is to understand and contribute towards improving the lives of marginalised residents of rapidly developing urban areas. This write-up, by TGRG chair Karen Lucas, provides detail on each of the 13 talks.


Unlike in the Western world, where transport systems are already largely fixed, cities in developing areas may still offer potential to build more environmentally sustainable and socially equitable transport systems. However, their delivery requires fundamental changes to both transport and social policy and governance structures. The session specifically sought to draw together different theoretical perspectives and diverse methodologies for exploring the positive and negative impacts of transport on the mobilities and livelihoods of the marginalised urban poor. Papers related to diverse cities in Latin America, Africa and Asia; author institutional affiliations were also strongly international. We hope that further similar productive joint meetings between TGRG and DARG will follow.

1.Walking is free: access to the city by people living in the baxias of Brazil
Karen Lucas (University of Leeds), Maria Leonor Maia (Universidade Federal de Pernambuco), Geraldo Marinho (Universidade Federal de Pernambuco)
The paper offers the key findings from the focus groups that were conducted with different sectors of the resident population in two study areas in the City of Recife, Brazil. In particular, our analysis focuses on the complex interplay between the social circumstances of the citizens of these communities, their activity patterns and how this affects their current and future travel horizons and travel behaviours. A key question the paper examines is how far the restricted mobility and activity patterns of the citizens in these communities have an influence on their reduced quality of life outcomes? If this is so, does transportation policy have a role to play in enhancing their future life chances in the context of rapidly developing and expanding cities? However, this also has relevance beyond the sphere of transportation policy and further than the boundaries of Recife. Our aim is to contribute to a wider set of discussions about how to improve quality of life and social wellbeing for the many citizens who experience social exclusion across the whole of urban Brazil.

2. Exploring transport strategies of the peripheral poor in Colombia
Daniel Oviedo Hernández (Development Planning Unit, University College London)
In a context of limited purchasing power, spatially concentrated income-earning opportunities and other urban functions, accessibility to means of connecting and engaging with the city can be a determining factor in overcoming poverty for residents in physically marginal areas. Using the case study of Soacha, a municipality adjacent to Colombia’s largest city, this paper explores the generation travel strategies in a context of uneven provision of material infrastructures and services for transport. Through the analysis of qualitative data from semi-structured interviews and existing statistics from available technical appraisals of travel patterns in the area, the research identifies central elements in the development of strategies or accessing the city that involve formal and informal transport. Poor residents from spatially and socially peripheral settlements take advantage of the flexibility of informal transport alternatives, increasing their influence in space and filling gaps in fragmented formal networks. Particular characteristics of the transport supply allow for a series of benefits often overlooked by traditional approaches to urban planning and transport development. Information obtained from users and suppliers of informal transport show higher accessibility under specific conditions in comparison with users of only formal transport modes. In a context where spatial and infrastructure planning is strongly influence by (lack of) power and attractiveness, these travel patterns and preferences may contribute to build a better-informed analysis of the role of flexibility and affordability in transport provision for vulnerable populations in similar contexts.

3. The impact of road construction on market and street trading in Lagos, Nigeria

Faith Ikioda (University of Hertfordshire)
In 2009, the Lagos state government commenced the construction of a ten-lane highway incorporating a light rail track along the existing Lagos-Badagry expressway. With the assistance of the World Bank and at a cost of about US$1.5 billion, when complete, the road will link Lagos with the Republic of Benin and other West African countries as part of the ECOWAS transit Corridor. While the proposed development is intended to potentially improve the business and international status of the city of Lagos, the expansion of the road has had implications for a variety of activities adjoining locations around the proposed highway. To fulfil the conditions for expanding the road, the government has had to acquire rights of way to adjoining areas of the existing expressway. Through this process, places of worship, residential buildings, motor parks, schools, markets, mechanic workshops, to mention a few activities, have been displaced in order to fulfil the project. This study explores the impact of such displacement arising from the road construction on the livelihood of market and street traders at two markets located along the expressway; the Agboju Market and New Alayabiagba market. Primary data collected by the researcher through interviews, photographs and observation research with traders in both markets in 2010 and 2012 is used to explore the detrimental and often ignored implications that development initiatives, albeit well intentioned, can have on the livelihoods of urban residents.

4. Made by China: the transition of an African mobility
Alexandra Thorer (Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne)

African cities are currently growing at an enormous rate: the economy is rising, the building boom dominating the city skyline and entire urban areas are under construction. Since the past two decades, China is increasingly involved in Africa’s urbanization process. Fields such as telecommunication and mobile networking, industry, local manufacturers and building construction are only a few sectors in which China impacted Africa’s urban development; particularly infrastructural megaprojects play a major role. While looking at road and rail construction, the objective is to understand how these megaprojects affect the urbanization process in terms of transportation development, change of mobility patterns, economic growth through land-use transition, social transformation and reflection upon cultural change. Due to its drastic development and evolution from a unique urban model to a new form of an “African City”, Africa’s diplomatic capital – as well as one of the continent’s fastest growing economic and urban centres – Addis Ababa, Ethiopia serves as an example for a city being “made by China”. Hereby the hypothesis of China’s urban “copy-paste” approach is to be examined. The current urban mobility transition in Addis Ababa is strongly effected by the up-coming light rail transit system, which is the first rail-based mass transportation system in the city. This China-contracted and constructed infrastructural mega-project will not only change the urban structure and the image of the city but also affect the mobility pattern of the population. Consequently, these transportation and mobility transitions simultaneously change to both spatial and social occurrences. This research pays additional attention to urban nodes and public space. Further analysis will be developed into the formation of (transportation) hubs, which are currently emerging from these new transportation networks and urban zoning plans.

5. Linking livelihoods and spatial practices through mobility. The case of a resettlement colony in Chennai, India

Anna Alberts, Karin Pfeffer, Isa Baud (University of Amsterdam)

In India, the trend of increasing urbanization comes with the dilemma of city development and providing housing for all people within the city. In Chennai, the answer is found in slum free city policies and large-scale resettlement projects, locating sub-standard settlements at the fringe of the city. By physically isolating people from their previous livelihoods, the need for mobility is ignited. Accordingly, it is critical to combine the study of livelihoods with that of spatial practices and opportunities caused by the forced removal from the city centre. ‘Spatial opportunities and limitations of the marginalized’ is a topic of a long-standing debate and sub-standard settlements’ livelihoods have been extensively studied. Here the lens of mobility served as proxy to understand the interlinked impacts of spatial practices on livelihoods and vice-versa. A multifaceted view is constructed by combining qualitative analysis of five participatory workshops, a survey, and forty structured interviews with spatial visualisation. This paper answers the question how women manage their livelihoods given the spatial challenges of living in a resettlement area far away. The aim is to explore the trade-offs that emerge from the dependency on relations with the city for sustaining livelihoods and the impact of bridging the distances to the city on households’ resources. Our findings show that women re-establish relations with the city in their efforts to sustain their livelihoods. This spatial reconfiguration illustrates their adaptive capacity being confronted with exclusion from the city caused by resettlement.

6. Traffic Tyranny: Urban Mobility and Modernity in East and Southern African Apex Cities

Deborah Fahy Bryceson (University of Glasgow), Tatenda Mbara (University of Johannesburg)

The 21st century has brought economic recovery and emerging prosperity in many national African economies, particularly those with newly found mineral wealth. One of the most visible indicators has been changing modes of urban travel connected with rising motorization in Africa’s apex cities, where wealth is disproportionately concentrated. As the population and physical size of these cities expands, motorized transport has bridged distance for some but not necessarily all, and at differing levels of convenience and comfort. Urban residents strongly associate urban modernity with the use of motorized public and private transport. Car ownership is high on their target list of aspirational goods. But now the complex tangle of population, differentiated wealth and spatial growth of cities is increasingly posing obstacles to mobility across the economic spectrum. ‘Automobiles’, as the term implies, service very individualized transport needs. Gridlocked traffic congestion is testimony to amassing private usage of motorcars, now impeding the conduct of daily life and thwarting urban efficiency and productivity. This paper asks how and why the promise of modernity and mobility is being frustrated in Nairobi, Kampala, Dar es Salaam, Harare and Johannesburg.

7. Motorbike taxi operators and livelihood issues in Lomé

Lourdes Diaz Olvera (Transport Economics Laboratory, University of Lyon (ENTPE), France); Assogba Guézéré (Department of Geography, University of Kara, Togo), Didier Plat (Transport Economics Laboratory, University of Lyon (ENTPE), France), Pascal Pochet (Transport Economics Laboratory, University of Lyon (ENTPE), France)

Motorbike taxis, a major mode of public transport in a number of African cities, have many sided effects on mobility and the living conditions of urban populations. On the one hand, they improve accessibility and contribute to daily mobility. On the other hand, motorbike taxis generate private costs (household budget) and social and environmental costs (road accidents, pollution). But motorbike taxis also represent a source of livelihood for male city dwellers with low professional skills who become drivers.

Through the case study of Lomé (Togo), the aim of this paper is to analyze the opportunities of the motorbike system to ensure a livelihood and a way out of poverty. Who becomes a driver of a motorbike taxi and why? What working conditions do drivers work in? Is professional development possible? This work is part of a larger empirical research on the motorbike taxi system in Lomé which concerns both motorbike taxi demand (users) and provision (operators). Data were collected in 2011-2012 through three surveys: 1220 users of public transport, 147 motorbike taxi operators and 19 semi-structured interviews of stakeholders (drivers and vehicle owners, transport and trade union officials).
The first analyses show that for a number of motorbike taxi operators earned income is low in spite of long working days and the demanding nature of the job. Incomes increase under certain conditions such as working night shifts and years of experience in the job. Due to the lack of other job opportunities, motorbike taxi drivers consider their job as temporary or occasional and they invest their small savings in other economic activities.

8. Spatial mismatch and livelihoods in a fast-growing lower middle-income city: Praia, Cape Verde

Paulo Rui Anciaes (University College London), Judite Medina do Nascimento (Universidade de Cabo Verde, Praia, Cape Verde), Iriene Sadine Marques Pinto (Câmara Municipal da Praia, Praia, Cape Verde)

The livelihoods of disadvantaged groups are often related with the mismatch between the location of jobs and residences. This paper tests this hypothesis in the context of a city in a lower middle-income country: Praia, the capital of Cape Verde islands. Due to geographic constraints and rapid growth of population, income, road network and car ownership, employment is highly dispersed throughout the city. Better governance means that the bus system is more reliable comparing with cities in low-income countries, but also that informal public transport options found in those cities are largely absent. However, comparing with high-income countries, the system is still limited in terms of geographic coverage and service frequency.

The study estimates levels of job accessibility for the population in deprived neighbourhoods, taking into account their sectors of activity, location of jobs, and transport options. The analysis considers aspects of the bus journey that are seldom included in urban accessibility studies in developing countries, such as the walking trip to bus stops, waiting time, and availability of services in relation with working hours in each sector. The results show that the population of concern face restrictions in terms of access to the locations of their main sources of livelihood: jobs in the construction industry for men, and as domestic workers for women. This is due both to geographic mismatch and to poor provision of public transport, when comparing both with private transport options in their areas and with the public transport options in more affluent areas.

9. Livelihoods in motion: linking transport, mobility and income-generating activities in Accra

Katherine Gough (Loughborough University), James Esson (Loughborough University), Oliver Ninot (CRNS Prodig, France), David Simon (Royal Holloway, University of London), Paul Yankson (University of Ghana, Legon)
During the past decade there has been an increased focus on mobility in the social sciences linked to the so-called mobility turn which claims that as mobility is so widespread it should not be seen as a rupture in society but as a normal way of life. This is certainly the case in urban contexts of the global South where mobility forms an integral part of livelihood strategies. Drawing on fieldwork conducted in Accra, this paper explores the mobility of urban residents in differing parts of the city and analyses how this feeds into their livelihood strategies. Who is moving into and out of the city, where are they moving from and to, and why they are moving is examined at a range of spatial and temporal scales, exploring how this mobility differs according to gender, age, socio-economic status, location and occupation. The ways in which urban residents’ mobility is facilitated or hindered by transport possibilities, and how this in turn influences their livelihood strategies, forms a key element of the discussion. It is shown how despite mobility being widespread, not everyone has the same opportunity, or indeed need, to be mobile and that understanding immobility is as important as focusing on mobility.

10. Urban mobility, livelihoods and transport in Dar Es Salaam City: exploring children’s experiences and perceptions

Hannibal Bwire (University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)
This paper aims to provide an investigation of the urban mobility needs and livelihood in Dar es Salaam city with specific reference to children. It is based on the travel survey data collected to provide some insights into how children travel to and from school, their activity needs after school hours and during weekend as well as perceptions of neighbourhood environments. The data used were collected through surveys that were conducted using a pen-and-paper self-completion questionnaire. The key findings of the surveys are discussed in terms of the insights they provide on urban mobility needs and livelihood in Dar es Salaam city with specific reference to children, how school children travel to and from school, children travel activities after school hours and during weekend, children perceptions of neighbourhoods environments as well as the willingness of parents to either allow their children to participate in “walking bus” and “cycle train” and to volunteer to supervise the children are also given. The paper concludes by a discussion on the prospects for promoting greater and safer walking and cycling to school as well as viable intervention for enhancing children’s safety in public outdoor environments.

11. Personal mobility and self-organized transport systems in major cities of southern countries: a solution to survive?
Lea Wester, Camille Michel, Frédéric Audard (Aix-Marseille University, UMR 7300 ESPACE – CNRS)
Transport systems in major cities of southern countries usually evoke apparently archaic services with anarchic organization. These stereotypes result from a lack of understanding of these systems. Today, several metropolises of southern countries have transport services without any centralized management. Alternative solutions have appeared which are based on individual initiatives. Owing to the weak standard of living in developing countries, individual cars owners are rare. A lot of megapolis exceeds one million people without public transportation system. Furthermore, in many cases bicycle is not used. However, despite a considerable technological delay, some megacities succeed to constitute an effective urban transport network, although it is informal. We offer an analysis of these systems in order to understand their spatial, social and economical structures. We focus on spatial dynamics and temporal fluctuations, treating specifically the case of Lima. We based on survey data sensed on the field with partnership of IRD in the course of 2012.

12. Assessment of income and mobility inequalities in Douala and Niamey
Lourdes Diaz Olvera, Didier Plat (Transport Economics Laboratory, University of Lyon (ENTPE), France)

Socio-spatial inequalities with regard to daily mobility and access to urban amenities are significant in the cities of Sub-Saharan Africa. They are partly related to the low rate of motorised daily travel, the scarcity of transport supply and the cost for travelling. The accurate assessment of the monetary resources of city-dwellers contributes to the appropriate formulation of equitable and pro-poor transport policies. However, collection of income data encounters a number of methodological difficulties reinforced by the characteristics of jobs in the informal sector. This paper sets out to answer two questions. How can individuals’ income be collected accurately? What are the subsequent benefits with regard to the analysis of travel
and inequalities? The income data collection methodologies used in three surveys are
compared: living conditions survey (Douala) and household travel surveys (Niamey, Douala).
The results show that detailed collection of income data from each individual according to its source markedly reduces the non-response rate and improves the accuracy of the total income assessment. Additionally, the effects of methodological improvements are not randomly distributed amongst the population and they involve more frequently the poorest and the residents of the suburbs. Consequently, inequalities with regard to travel indicators and the share of budget spent on transport appear to be considerably greater when individual income is collected precisely. These results are thus helpful for studying individual determinants of travel and make it possible to take better account of equity issues with regard to access to transport and urban activities and opportunities.

13. Transport, mobility and livelihoods in urban Africa: new opportunities in an era of widespread mobile phone communication

Gina Porter, Kate Hampshire (Durham University, Anthropology), Albert Abane (University of Cape Coast, Ghana), James Milner, Alister Munthali (University of Malawi), Elsbeth Robson (University of Hull), Andisiwe Bango (Walter Sisulu University), Mac Mashiri (Gwarajena consultancy), Augustine Tanle (University of Cape Coast), Ariane deLannoy (University of Cape Town)

Transport constraints and costs have long been a major factor inhibiting poor people’s efforts to get by in African cities. However, the mobilities arena is beginning to change rapidly, as the virtual mobility afforded by widespread mobile phone ownership introduces new opportunities for reshaping conventional practices of transport organisation and use. These new connectivities offer the potential for improved distance management and may have significant implications for livelihood practices and repertoires in diverse contexts.
Drawing on ongoing mixed-methods research with young people in six African cities [in Ghana, Malawi and South Africa], this paper first explores the significance of improving connectivities for youth who are directly engaged in urban transport businesses. Secondly, it considers the wider experiences of traders and others for whom access to transport is of major importance in the conduct of their daily work. Specific consideration is given to the gendered livelihood implications of changing physical and virtual mobility practices.

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