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Spatializing interferences with informal transport mobilities in the African metropolis

Authors: Allen Xiao*, University of Wisconsin - Madison
Topics: Transportation Geography
Keywords: Informal transport, Africa, spatiality, power
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


As the largest metropolis in Africa, Lagos is built on a large-scale informal transport system in which a kind of yellow minibus (danfo) plays a dominant role. With estimated 70,000 danfo buses running in the city, everyday passenger mobilities largely reply on this means of transportation. The informality of such transport mobilities manifests in the absence of bus schedule, flexible stoppings, and self-decided pricing. Instead of being planned and managed by the government, this system is governed by autonomous transport unions which operate on the basis of territorial vigilance and grassroots politics. Therefore, it has been difficult to comprehend the operational systems of informal transport in Lagos. Based on longtime fieldwork and solid connections with transport stakeholders, this research makes efforts to spatialize one of features of informal mobilities in this circumstance—the interference with danfo buses by union vigilantes. It identifies patterns of spatial arrangements of agberos (union vigilantes who collect levies from danfo drivers passing or loading passengers in their territories—usually bus stops or motor parks) and also time and money spent on a specific route given such inference. By comparing data collected from different routes across different power-laden unions, this paper will shed light on variegated spatiality of interfered informal mobilities in the light of power dynamics of grassroots politics in urban Africa.

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