Book Review | Concrete City: Material Flows and Urbanization in West Africa


Maren Larsen
Planning Perspectives, 2023

Despite its distance from the urbanizing coastal strip between Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire where Armelle Choplin begins her analysis, the neighbourhood of Misra in Saint-Louis, Senegal is a burgeoning version of what she might call a ‘Low-Cost City’ – a grey landscape under construction and underpinned (perhaps later to be undermined) by the production, sale, circulation, and stacking of blocks of concrete. A group of old friends of mine recently moved there to pursue their latest business venture of short-term subletting. The dynamics of concrete that make Misra at once habitable and uninhabitable without cooling are precisely those illustrated in this book: the life of concrete is bound up with individual life goals, West African urbanization, the advance of capitalism in Africa, and the energy-intensive practices that jeopardize planetary habitability.