MediAfrica at ECAS7

At the recent European Conference on Africa Studies in Basel, Switzerland, the MediAfrica represented with a panel as well as two presentations of recent research by participants in the project. Nanna Schneidermann convened a panel together with Casper Andersen from Aarhus University on “Urban technologies and technologies of urbanity in Africa.” The panel invited investigations of the relationship between technology and cities in Africa from an interdisciplinary standpoint:

”New and important questions are been asked about "local" innovation, "creolization" of imported technologies, maintenance, reuse and sustainability and not least about the role of technologies in the making of urban identities and forms of expertise and entrepreneurship. The burgeoning interest and growing literature has been interdisciplinary from the outset spanning across history, anthropology, geography, urban studies, STS and beyond. The panel aims to contribute to establishing a solid platform for this important interdisciplinary debate and invites papers that address the theoretical as well as empirical questions about urbanity and technology in Africa.”

These themes were explored in four papers presented on a Friday afternoon. Here Katrien Pype presented a recent chapter on ”Smartness from Below” calling for a closer attention to local vernaculars about technology and ”being smart” - and their relation to fantasies of development and ”smart cities”-  in Kinshasa.

These considerations neatly set the stage for the other papers in the panel; on repair and maintenance of electricity meters in Maputo, by Idalina Baptista, urban finances and mobile money in Eastern African cities, by Daivi Rodima-Taylor and William Grimes, and the politics and contestation of sanitation infrastructure in South African former townships by Steven Robins and Peter Redfield.

In a panel on women’s roles in negotiating health and healing in Africa, Nanna Schneidermann presented a paper on ”technologies of motherhood” based on recent fieldwork in Cape Town.

Overall the papers engendered discussions about the need for more “use-centric” studies and approaches to technology in Africa cities, and how these in turn might refine the concept of technology itself, as it is placed both in histories and in specific contexts of use. 

new book chapter on technology and the city

I am very pleased to announce the publication of a chapter in open access. You can find the whole book via this url:

The chapter is an attempt to call for more attention to the cohabitation of techne experts in African societies. In this way, I propose an alternative interpretation of "the smart city". There is considerable attention to the continuation of the social positioning of healers, blacksmiths, media practitioners and engineer students. 

In addition, I explore the linguistic closeness of various forms of knowledge in the urban sphere and the handling of tools.

The endeavor of the whole book is to propose an Africa-centered understanding of technological innovation, going beyond the familiar tropes of appropriation and creativity. The book is the outcome of a workshop at MIT held in October 2014.

The full bibliographic reference for the book chapter is 

Pype, K. 2017. "Smartness from Below. Variations on Technology and Creativity in Contemporary Kinshasa." In: Mavhunga, C.C. (ed.), What do Science, Technology, and Innovation Mean from Africa? Cambridge: MIT Press. Chapter 5: 97-115.

A Visit in the Promised Land – mHealth in context

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In development policy and public discourse mHealth is at times seen as the Promised Land. Something that potentially can cut at least 25% off health expenditure and improve health systems and the delivery of services to citizens. So what does the Promised Land look like from the point of view of those bringing it about?

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