Planning the Postcolony: Deconstructing the Institutions of Planning in Ghana

Authors: Emmanuel Frimpong Boamah*, SUNY - Buffalo
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Political Geography, Africa
Keywords: planning, institutions, constitutional economics, institutional grammar
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Ambassador Ballroom, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper is concerned with the institutions within which planning is organized in postcolonial, sub-Saharan African countries. By institutions, this paper is referring specifically to the rules, norms, and strategies within which actors (e.g. planners, citizens, and elected officials) interact to shape different planning outcomes. These planning institutions, often framed by Acts of Parliament, ground what planners are taught in schools and how they practice the profession. However, we are yet to deeply interrogate how these institutions constrain planning practice in postcolonial countries where informal institutions seem stronger than formal institutions. In this vein, this paper puts constitutional economics into conversation with institutional grammar to analyze the rules of the ‘planning game’ and their socio-economic and political effects in postcolonial countries. One such effect is the tension between what the planning rules say and what actually gets implemented on the ground. This gap has, for instance, been explored from multiple theoretical lenses, including the use of concepts such as “nomotropism” (actions pursued in light of rules) and legal pluralism to explain why planning rules on land often lead to informality in Global South countries. This paper takes up a piece of this conversation by discussing how Ghana’s planning institutions, such as the National Development Planning Commission Act, affect, for instance, the extent to which planners are able to enforce planning rules without compromising their professional ethics and/or cultural values. The paper concludes on the theoretical and methodological challenges of using western-centric concepts to analyze planning institutions in postcolonial Ghana.

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