In recent years, there has been substantial effort within and beyond academia to make sense of the development of African cities. The dominant literature on African cities is highly polarized. Journalists often present African cities as sites of despair and chaos, chronicles of oppression and poster children of planning ‘gone wrong’ (Pieterse, 2008; Murray, 2008). In contrast, international consultancy firms and select development agencies prefer the ‘Africa rising’ narrative, celebrating the rising GDP, middle class and infrastructure investment evident in many African cities (e.g. McKinsey and Company, 2010, 2012).