Starting from temporary settlements turning into permanent urban centers, this paper discusses the transformations taking place through the process of so-called ‘boomtown’ urbanization in Central and Southern Africa. Based on data collected in Angola, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the paper identifies the different conditions for migration and settlement and the complex socio-economic, spatial, as well as political transformations produced by the fast growth and expansion of boomtowns. Different historical and contemporary processes shape boomtown urbanization in Africa, from colonial territorial governance to large- and small-scale mining or dynamics of violence and forced displacement. As centers of attraction, opportunities, diversified livelihoods and cultures for aspiring urbanities, boomtowns represent an interesting site from which to investigate rural-urban transformation in a context of resource extraction and conflict/post conflict governance. They equally represent potential catalyzing sites for growth, development and stability, hence deserving not only more academic but also policy attention. Based on the authors’ long-term field experience in the countries under study, the analysis draws on ethnographic fieldwork data collected through observations as well as interviews and focus group discussions with key actors involved in the everyday shaping of boomtown urbanism. The findings point to discernible patterns of boomtown consolidation across these adjacent countries, which are a result of combinations of types of migration, migrants’ agency and the governance structures, with clear implications for urban policy for both makeshift and consolidating towns.
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