The Kenya Slum Electrification Program. Local politics of electricity networks in Kibera

Abstract : The development of universal electricity networks remains a challenge for public authorities and energy utilities in many African cities characterized by rapid urbanization and high poverty levels. This article looks beyond the technicalities of recent electrification programs to explore the politics of introducing new socio-technical rules and practices in unplanned settlements. Our empirical study investigates the implementation of the Kenya Slum Electrification Project in Kibera, one of the most deprived areas of Nairobi, and the regularization of electricity services promoted under the scheme. Approached through a political perspective at a local micro-scale, attempts to control and regulate electricity supply and use in the slum appear to be highly conflictual and reveal considerable power struggles over this marginalized territory. The analysis confronts the socio-technical strategies of the Kenya Power and Lighting Company with the everyday tactics and resistance of subaltern actors. It allows for an in-depth understanding of electricity networks as political terrains and conflict zones, and as junctions that mediate particular socio-spatial relations. Based on our exploratory study on the negotiations surrounding the project and the circumventions by slum dwellers we suggest perspectives for addressing the local politics of slum electrification and malfunctions in their design.
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Submitted on : Monday, June 4, 2018 - 12:15:17 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, February 7, 2019 - 4:57:25 PM

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Rémi de Bercegol, Jochen Monstadt. The Kenya Slum Electrification Program. Local politics of electricity networks in Kibera. Energy Research & Social Science, Elsevier, 2018, ⟨10.1016/j.erss.2018.04.007⟩. ⟨halshs-01806991⟩

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