Waterfront Metropolis Abidjan. Between everyday urbanity, spontaneous urbanisation, town planning and real estate development


Urbanisation, anthropology of the city, informal settlements, sustainability


Côte d´Ivoire


The research project refers to discussions about the right to the city (Lefevbre 1968) as well as to debates on rebellious cities (Harvey 2014). Abidjan will be examined as empirical case study for African metropolises with a waterfront where sustainability is debated on the one hand side. On the other hand side, an increased engagement of transnational real estate companies has been noticed in town planning. At the same time, unplanned settlements and informal business areas evolve along the waterfronts and with them every day urbanity. Inhabitants and owners of businesses appropriate public space that the town administration claims back in order to re-establish public order and state control. These spontaneous quarters and business areas often face conflict with urban projects of modernisation, which should increase the economic value of public space as well as should contribute to ecological sustainability.

The research follows three objectives: (1) to write an ethnography about the settlement Adjahui, which has spontaneously expanded on a peninsular in the middle of the metropolis after other spontaneous settlements had been evicted; (2) to contextualise the Adjahui case by analysing the historical and political interplay of every day urbanism, unplanned urbanisation, town planning and real estate development in Abidjan; and (3) to analyse discourses on sustainable waterfront development along the Ébrié-Lagoon and citizenship in Abidjan.


The ethnography will be based on the following methods: transect walks, photo documentation, and spatial description of the settlement, ethnographic census, biographical interviews, participant observation, and the establishment of individual case studies. These methods will be complemented by remote sensing. For the implementation of the contextual study and discourse analysis, experts will interviewed and media analysed.

Main Cooperation Partners

Centre Suisse des Recherches Scientifiques (CSRS) in Abidjan

Main Funding Partners

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation), EG 381/1-1

Further information

08/2016: Field visit to Abidjan
03/2017: Poster presentation at SIEF Conference in Göttingen, Germany
06/2017: Participation in Summer School “Decolonising Urbanism”, University of Trier, Germany
06/2017: Panel and presentations at ECAS in Basel, Switzerland
11/2017: Participation in International Conference "The Right to the City in the South, everyday urban experience and rationalities of government", University Paris Diderot, France
12/2017: Official start of the project
01/2018: Six weeks of data collection in Abidjan
06/2018: Presentation at VAD Conference in Leipzig, Panel 06: Doing the City. Social-spatial navigation in urban Africa
07/2018: Three weeks of data collection in Abidjan
08/2018: Presentation at EASA Conference in Stockholm, Panel 42: Urban temporalities
09/2018: Presentation at ZEF Board Meeting
10/2018: Presentation at ZEF Colloquium
12/2018: Presentation at the "ZEF in the City" Workshop/ ZEFa Colloquium
03/2019: Five weeks of data collection in Abidjan
04/2019: Presentation at Global South Studies Centre in Cologne
06/2019 Presentation at ZEF Colloquium
06/2019 Presentation at ECAS in Edinburgh, Panel Envr04: Spatial theory and African urban studies
09/2019: Presentation at RC 21 (Research Committee 21: Sociology of Urban and Regional Development of the International Sociological Association) Conference in Delhi, STREAM: Civic engagement, local leadership and contested spaces

Research blog
08/2017 Waterfronts and green spaces in central Cairo. What´s the way forward? » more
12/2017 Postcard from Paris/ Rive Gauche: Urban renewal and controversies about the Right to the City in the South » more
01/2018 Twelve months – twelve books: My 2018 reading list on cities » more
02/2019 Twelve months – twelve books: My 2019 reading list on cities » more

Project Flyer
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Kabran, E.G. and I. Eguavoen. 2019. Ferry transportation in Abidjan. Establishment, operation and sustainability of a paratransit system. ZEF Working Paper 179. Bonn. » Download

Duration of the Project

Dec 2017 - Nov 2019

  • Dr. Irit Eguavoen (ZEF, project leader)
  • Dr. Estelle G. Kabran (CSRS, researcher)
  • Dr. Eugene Konan Konadio (UHB/ITG, researcher)
  • Chérif Aidara Madhy (UHB/ITG, researcher)
  • Pauline Attemene (research assistant)
  • Fulgence Kouame (research assistant)
  • Mon. Rasmane (field assistant)
  • Dr. Gilbert Fokou (University of Cape Town/CSRS, academic adviser)
  • Dr. Adou Djané Dit Fatogoma (CSRS, academic adviser)


Irit Eguavoen

Dr. Irit Eguavoen