Changing urban governance in Ghana: the role of resistance practices and activism in Kumasi

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This article examines traders’ resistance practices in Kumasi, Ghana and their significance for changing urban governance in Africa. Conceptually, we introduce “activism” as a new variable into the present concept of urban governance as decentralization, entrepreneurialism and democratization (DED). From an empirical study in Kumasi, Ghana, findings reveal that activism by non-state actors does not only occur at the crucial earlier phases of the urban regeneration process, but extends into the subsequent phases, because urban governance is a continuous process. We demonstrate that activism and a multiplicity of resistance practices are embedded and significant dimensions of everyday urban governance in Africa. This paper argues that the additional dimension–activism–is necessary in rethinking urban governance in Ghana and Africa. This conceptualization views non-state actors not as resisters of urban governance but as activists whose resistance practices and innovations produce tangible and far-reaching changes in city governance. We learn that non-state actors do not rely on the state to control all aspects of urban governance but invent new practices to secure their socio-economic interests and provide them with leverage where they have to negotiate with or stand up to authorities. The study shows that successful change in urban governance is a function of the complementary and strategic adoption of contention, subversion and co-production. When the state perceives that the intervention of other key stakeholders legitimizes the grievances of non-state actors, it responds positively.




Asante, L. A., & Helbrecht, I. (2019). Changing urban governance in Ghana: the role of resistance practices and activism in Kumasi. Urban Geography, 40(10), 1568–1595.

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