Exploring the idea of the creative class in an African city : a case study of ICT professionals in Nairobi

Rosenberg, Lauren (2013-03)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study is an exploration of Richard Florida’s Creative Class theory within an African city context. The economic value of the Creative Class is that their work revolves around innovation, a quality seen as essential to ‘new economy’ urban growth. Quality of place (that which makes ‘New York, New York’) is said to attract the Creative Class to certain cities, as lifestyle amenities are valued as much as employment opportunities. Nairobi is an example of an African city currently attracting both Kenyan and expatriate Creative Class workers, particularly in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector. The research aimed to understand why this group chose to live in Nairobi and to describe Nairobi’s quality of place, with a particular focus on infrastructure disruption. Overall, the Western city is the reference point for Creative Class literature and quality of place is embedded within a framework of urbanisation through industrialisation - a period known as the first urbanisation wave. The fastest growing cities on the African continent (Nairobi included) are part of the second urbanisation wave, an urbanisation process spurred by a set of vastly different dynamics in which industrialisation is virtually inconsequential. Urbanisation through industrialisation induced concomitant investments into infrastructure and thus it is unsurprising that the Creative Class literature assumes that urban infrastructure is ‘always on’ – available at all times as an inherent attribute of place. The point of the study was not to draw modernist comparisons, but rather to emphasise that notions of quality of place are incomplete given the rise of technological innovation in urban Africa, where cities often suffer from disruption of basic infrastructure. Until more recently, African cities did not feature in the Creative Class literature; the predominantly rural focus of ICT diffusion in the literature is a contributing factor to the lack of information on the Creative Class in African cities. The case study revealed that Nairobi’s quality of place is fundamentally different to normative prescriptions given to urban planners and, in some instances, is highly frustrating and unattractive. Contrary to Florida’s theory, those interviewed were not leaving Nairobi in search of cities with higher quality of place attributes or better infrastructure provision – individuals were rooted to the city because of their work and the professional networks with which they were associated.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie studie is ‘n verkenning van Richard Florida se teorie van Kreatiewe Klas binne die konteks van ‘n Afrika-stad. Die ekonomiese waarde van die Kreatiewe Klas is dat hul werk rondom innovasie draai, wat as noodsaaklik beskou word vir die stedelike groei van die “nuwe ekonomie”. Plekkwaliteit (dit wat ‘New York, New York’ maak) lok luidens Florida se teorie die Kreatiewe Klas na sekere stede, aangesien hulle leefstylgeriewe net so hoog soos werksgeleenthede op die prys stel. Nairobi is ‘n voorbeeld van ‘n Afrika-stad wat tans beide Keniaanse en buitelandse werkers van die Kreatiewe Klas lok, veral na die plaaslike Informasie- en Kommunikasietegnologiesektor (IKT-sektor). Die navorsing het gepoog om te verstaan waarom hierdie groep gekies het om in Nairobi te woon asook om Nairobi se plekkwaliteit te beskryf, met ‘n spesifieke klem op die onderbreking van infrastruktuur. Oor die algemeen is die Westerse stad die vertrekpunt vir literatuur oor die Kreatiewe Klas. Daarby word plekkwaliteit gewoonlik beskou binne die raamwerk van “verstedeliking deur industrialisering”, wat bekend staan as die eerste verstedelikingsgolf. Die vinnig groeiendste stede op die Afrika-vasteland (insluitend Nairobi) is deel van ‘n tweede verstedelikingsgolf wat deur gans ander dinamika gedryf word, waarvan industrialisering ‘n feitlik weglaatbare faset is. Verstedeliking deur industrialisering het tot gelyktydige beleggings in infrastruktuur aanleiding gegee, dus maak dit sin dat literatuur oor die Kreatiewe Klas aanvaar dat stedelike infrastruktuur “altyd aan” is – dit wil sê, immerbeskikbaar as ‘n onafskeidelike kenmerk van die plek. Die doel van die studie was nie om modernistiese vergelykings te tref nie, maar om te beklemtoon dat begrippe van plekkwaliteit onvolledig is gegewe die opkoms van tegnologiese innovasie in stedelike Afrika, waar stede dikwels ly aan onderbrekings van basiese infrastruktuur. Tot baie onlangs is Afrika-stede nie genoem in literatuur oor die Kreatiewe Klas nie; die oorwegend landelike fokus van die verspreiding van IKT dra ook by tot die gebrek aan inligting aangaande die Kreatiewe Klas in Afrikastede. Die gevallestudie het onthul dat Nairobi se plekkwaliteit in wese anders is as die normatiewe voorskrifte wat aan stadsbeplanners voorgehou word en dat dit selfs, in sommige gevalle, uiters frustrerend en onaantreklik is. In teenstelling met Florida se teorie was diegene met wie onderhoude gevoer is, nie van plan om Nairobi te verlaat op soek na stede met hoër plekkwaliteitkenmerke of beter infrastruktuur nie – dié individue was gevestig in die stad weens hul werk en die professionele netwerke waarmee hul geskakel het.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/80081
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