The pace of change in some sub-Saharan African towns and cities is relentless. In Lagos thousands of people arrive everyday to establish new lives, economic opportunities and social connections. Many of these new arrivals will find space in the informal settlements that make up to 60 percent of the population in cities such as Kampala. Urbanisation is taking place on a scale unmatched in human history and its creating an urgent need to produce new infrastructure systems to serve the needs and dreams of these growing urban populations. The energy challenges of these cities form only one part of this infrastructure agenda – but one vital to the futures of these urban regions and their inhabitants. The energy issues of powering what Sue Parnell and Edgar Pieterse (2014) term ‘Africa’s urban revolution’ are complex and ever changing across the multiple, urban geographies of this vast region. From mega-infrastructure projects such as the $20 billion Grand Inga hydro in DR Congo to the everyday struggles of energy poverty in households in Cape Town it’s clear that multi-scalar energy transitions are taking place alongside the broader infrastructural transformations of the region. But how such transitions are taking place across towns and cities and how these socio-technical processes might be guided around concerns such as sustainability or security remain less clear. In a new paper in Urban Studies Jonathan Silver and Simon Marvin consider debates focused on urban transitions analysis before proposing to extending the outlines of such a framework into new directions that address some of the key concerns about how we research the energy dynamics of ‘Africa’s urban revolution’

Photo – A Charging point in a popular neighbourhood in Kampala (Credit: Jonathan Silver)