UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The new middle class and urban transformation in Africa : a case study of Accra, Ghana Tetteh, Komiete


The ascendance of the so-called global middle class—characterized as young, ambitious, highly-credentialed, well-paid, urban-based, professionals in the so-called emerging economies of the Global South—as a new socio-economic force has captured much international attention in the scholarly, business and media circles. For the most part, however, the discourse on this nascent social group has geographically focused on emerging Asia and thematically centered on their lifestyle characteristics and their related political and economic ramifications, locally and globally. In Africa, where the growth of the middle class has been paralleled by widespread socio-economic and urban transformation, little, if any, scholarly and policy effort have been made to understand the nature and ramifications of the nexus between the middle class expansion and the reconfigurations taking place in the urban form and space economies of cities. Seeking to tell the African version or story of the rise of the new middle class and their role in the on-going remaking of urban Africa, this thesis examines patterns of new economic activity and occupations, secondary service centres, housing, education and conspicuous consumption, including their broader spatial attributes and internal configurations, in one transitional African city, Accra, the capital of Ghana, as a case study. Drawing on a range of methods that include analyses of media coverage, policy briefs, scholarly works, plans and census data, the study unravels deep connections between the forces of globalization, structural change, class (re)production and new industrial and spatial formations in metropolitan Accra. The case study also highlights the different place-making strategies and tactics—covert and overt, direct and indirect, practical and ideological—employed by the new middle classes to reshape, territorialize and control urban space through the production and consumption of “privileged” landscapes that fits their vision and ideals of contemporary urban structure and social life. In addition to analyzing the impact and implications of these emergent middle-class landscapes for Accra’s spatial harmony and social cohesion, the research underscores the need for African urban governments to adopt innovative land use and social engineering approaches that encourage the mixing of diverse social groups in planned new residential communities, protect urban green space, and minimize the gentrifying effects of middle-class place-making.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International