Redefining the State-Society Interface: Evaluating the State’s approach in Ghana's Ministry of Inner City & Zongo Development

Authors: Colleen Brady*, Harvard University
Topics: Africa, Urban Geography, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: urban and regional planning, state-society engagement, urban citizenship, urban informality, Africa, Ghana
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Gallier A, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Increasingly, global trends focusing on accountability and participation have led many governments to address marginalized populations previously left behind by urban development. This paper explores how governments engage with socio-spatially marginalized populations through the policies and programs they adopt, focusing on the “state society interface” where government priorities and marginalized communities interact. This case study focuses on Ghana’s newly created Ministry of Inner City and Zongo Development (MICZD), an emerging effort to redefine the state-society interface with a marginalized community. The MICZD’s stated objective is to improve the social and infrastructural development of zongos, or “stranger’s quarters,” which have historically housed northern Hausa migrants and over time have become associated with slum-like conditions. Drawing on the literature on state-society engagement, participation, and clientelism in the Global South; as well as 40 interviews with government stakeholders, community-based organizations, local leaders and five focus groups with zongo residents, this paper explores how the MICZD’s motives and methods are articulated by the government and perceived by the communities it seeks to serve. It examines the key challenges associated with this specific process of institutional change, including aligning priorities between government and marginalized communities and addressing zongos’ historically-embedded lack of trust in government, and identifies potential paths forward for more productive and empowering state-society engagement. Finally, it proposes how aspects of this effort that can serve as a learning opportunity for governments engaging with marginalized populations worldwide.

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