Liza Rose Cirolia, Tom Goodfellow and Jonathan Silver present Financing infrastructure in cities of the global South, a full-day workshop on 17 October 2019 at the Urban Institute (The University of Sheffield, UK). 

The ‘infrastructure turn’ within Urban Studies has resulted in growing scholarly attention on the importance of infrastructure (such as water, energy, transport and the like) in the everyday life and governing of cities. Such work has been used to think through the broader social and political dimensions of urbanisation and the challenges of urban service provision across rapidly urbanizing regions.

Fiscal and financial issues feature in some of this research on infrastructure (for example in the recent work on financialization, of the investments required for delivering Sustainable Development Goals). However, detailed attention to the complexities of finance are often overlooked or simplified. In more conventional structural accounts, finance is given an overpowering and almost mythical position. In contrast, in much of the more relational work on urban infrastructure, finance is only briefly touched on, ignoring the range of new mechanisms being mobilised by city governments. From carbon finance to municipal bonds to public-private partnerships, new tax regimes and cost-recovery schemes, alongside the growth of private capital flows and new forms of financialized infrastructure, the financial geographies of rapidly urbanizing cities remain a complex patchwork.

Moreover, the financial stories and narratives which are produced on cities often focus on Western/Northern contexts (for example, by centring the 2008 financial crisis as a crucial, global historical moment and ignoring decades of structural adjustment). While certainty important, this framing creates huge gaps, particularly in the experiences of regions, countries, and cities which are only partially (if at all) connected to the global financial system. In these same contexts, infrastructure systems are more heterogeneous and less networked and financial transactions relating to infrastructure often play out at the scale of the community. These fiscal challenges and circulations of investment create particular relations with urban governance regimes and shape the possibilities of urban regions in delivering safe, fully-functioning and universal infrastructure services.

To explore these issues this workshop seeks to focus attention on:

  • The specificities and complexities of the relations between infrastructure and finance.
  • Critical research on new investments into infrastructure across urban regions.
  • Fiscal challenges of mega cities or small cities/towns for infrastructure investment.
  • The growth of new municipal financial mechanisms incorporating bonds, various forms of loans, cost-recovery programs, investments, tax regimes.
  • A new wave of neoliberal, financialized mechanisms and public-private partnerships transforming urban governance.
  • Innovative and progressive new financial tools such as P2P, basic income grants through to demands for paying carbon debt.
  • Financial investments into ‘hybrid’ infrastructures especially across informal urban space.
  • Methodologies and tools for tracing infrastructure-finance configurations.
  • How these dynamics play out in Southern cities and urban areas and with what implications.

We aim to bring together scholars who are interested in creative approaches to studying finance and infrastructure, drawing insights from their own projects and research in global South urban regions, and sharing work-in-progress to get feedback and comment. The workshop will provide an informal space to share work, ideas, research projects and discuss pathways for strengthening research in this area.

WHEN: 17 October 2019

WHERE: Urban Institute, The University of Sheffield, UK

If you are interested in attending, please contact workshop organisers

Liza Rose Cirolia (liza.cirolia@uct.ac.za) or Tom Goodfellow (t.goodfellow@sheffield.ac.uk) or  Jonathan Silver (j.silver@sheffield.ac.uk)