INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF URBAN AND REGIONAL RESEARCH
© 2018 urban research publications limited
This article draws on research conducted with financial support from the UK Government’s Department for
International Development (DfID) as part of the research project ‘Urban Governance and Turning African Cities
Around’, managed by the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR). Any views expressed by
the author, participants or interviewees do not necessarily represent those of DfID, PASGR or its Board of Directors.
The author would like to acknowledge the research assistance provided for this study by Development Workshop
Angola and the encouragement and guidance of Professor Edgar Pieterse, director of the African Centre for Cities
(ACC) and principal investigator of the PASGR research project ‘Urban Governance and Turning African Cities
Around’. The writing of draft versions of this article beneﬁted from those present at its presentation at a research
seminar organized by the ACC, and the generous and insightful comments from Laura Nkula-Wenz as well as three
anonymous IJURR reviewers.
— GLOBAL URBAN POLICYMAKING IN AFRICA:
A View from Angola Through the Redevelopment of the
Bay of Luanda
A burgeoning literature looks into the processes and actors involved in the adoption
and emulation of best practices and models of urban policy and development across the
globe, often with the aim of attracting investment and making cities more competitive.
With its focus on leisure, tourism and global capital, the redevelopment of the Bay of
Luanda, in the capital of Angola, echoes the rhetoric, policies and projects underpinning
such practices. Yet, a deeper interrogation reveals that the redevelopment forms part of
a predominantly inward-looking project driven by the highest echelons of the national
government and its ruling party. While these actors mimic and appropriate the language
and tools of entrepreneurial cities, their aim is not necessarily to make the city more
internationally competitive but to achieve domestic political legitimacy and stability. The
argument presented in this article builds on McCann’s (2013) call for scholars to also
consider the ‘introspective’ politics of urban policy boosterism from the perspective of a
context in which power is highly centralized. The article thus contributes to a growing
literature that advances more adequate and provincialized theorizations of urban policy
and city governance in the global South, with a particular focus on the African context.
A burgeoning literature is looking into the processes and actors involved in the
adoption and emulation of best practices and models of urban policy and development
in aspiring world-class cities across the globe. It shows how over the past decades cities
have become increasingly entrepreneurial, outward-looking and plugged into
transnational networks of urban policymaking. This has resulted in the fast-paced
circulation of policies, often with the aim of attracting investment and making cities
more competitive (McCann and Ward, 2011; Peck and Theodore, 2015).
In this article we consider the case of the redevelopment of the Bay of
Luanda, in the capital of Angola, to shed light on the local dynamics of global urban
policymaking in Africa.
The ﬁrst phase of this redevelopment was inaugurated in 2012,
ten years after the end of nearly three decades of civil war. Since its inauguration, the
redeveloped waterfront has become the postcard image of the government’s eorts to
transform Luanda from a war-torn and slum-ridden town into a ‘livable’, ‘beautiful’ and
‘international’ ‘world-class capital city’ (GoA, 2015). The second phase of the project,
launched in 2013, includes oce and residential developments and presents the Bay of
1 In line with common practice, this article refers to Luanda as a ‘city’, even though in administrative terms Luanda is a
province. A new administrative division adopted in 2011 did create a municipality of Luanda out of a total of seven
municipalities that make up the province of Luanda. However, unless specific reference is made to this entity, the
reader should assume that when mention is made of the city of Luanda, what is meant is the administrative entity of
the province of Luanda.