Power of Proximate Peers: A critical examination of South-South Cooperation and Urban Infrastructure Development in an African City

The changing landscape of international development cooperation, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, elicits much political and growing financial attention. However, very little is known about its impact on cities. This research project uses a grounded analysis of the impact and value of South-South Cooperation (SSC) – among other cooperation typologies – in the urban African context. Based on evidence from six years of fieldwork studying infrastructure and basic service cooperation projects in Mozambique’s capital, Maputo, Professor Gabriella Carolini forwards two major arguments about how the nature of African urban development and the value of SSC therein disrupts traditional accounts and practices of development. First, the under-theorization of the value of SSC on the ground by explaining how and why a subset of SSC, namely that between proximate peers, creates particular space for equity concerns in the management and objectives of urban development cooperation projects. Secondly, Carolini explains how and why a very rational logic of convenience—linked with the growing density of international donors covering basic municipal functions—dominates decision-making among municipal bureaucrats charged with directing the urban development process in African cities. She argues that this logic of convenience is emboldened by the growth of SSC writ large and complicates the realization of equitable urban growth and development in fragmented cities like Maputo.