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Cities as Geopolitical Testbeds of Digital Infrastructure

RESEARCH Working Paper by Andrea Pollio
Nairobi Phone Stall

African cities have emerged as proxy arenas where different modes of international relations are given effect through the development of infrastructure.

The importance of cities as geopolitical actors is now well established. African cities in particular are crucial actors and sites of the geopolitics of digital infrastructure, which will increasingly be one of the key geopolitical arenas of the 21st century as the US, China, and the EU compete for global influence with new programs of development finance.   

In this working paper, Dr. Andrea Pollio argues that urban areas are already beholden to the digital version of what scholars Seth Schindler and Miguel Kanai call the "infrastructure scramble"—the competition of different state actors and units of capital for infrastructure networks in the global south. In this context, Africa's fast-growing metropolises have emerged as testbeds of shifts in the geopolitics of information towards multipolar magnets of power. 

This report is part of the Council's Cities, Infrastructure, and Geopolitics project, which explores the role of urban infrastructure development in geopolitical competition.

About the Authors
Researcher, African Centre for Cities
Andrea Pollio
Andrea Pollio is the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow jointly at the African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town, and at the department of Urban and Regional Studies and Planning at the Polytechnic of Turin.
Andrea Pollio