The Provision, Planning and Building of Employment-tied Housing.

Language, Agency and Governance in three Housing Projects in Kenya, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, c. 1940s to 1970s

In the decades immediately before and after independence, an unprecedented demand for housing – a basic requirement in urban life – impelled governments into thinking about the provision, planning and building of houses. What used to be a question of welfare in late colonial thinking came to overlap with the sensitive issue of who should enjoy a legitimate existence in African cities and hubs of commercialisation and industrialisation and of how that existence would be imagined from various perspectives. Ever since then, housing has remained a pressing issue of urbanisation and a key theme of relevance in the history of colonial Africa and thereafter.

Worker housing represented the commonest built element in the colonial landscape and dominantly shaped cultural urban spaces. It refers to housing planned, designed and implemented by the state, municipalities and/ or employers and provided to a skilled and semi-skilled labour force in various settings of employment.

Three case studies (Livingstone in Zambia, Lubumbashi in DRC, Thika in Kenya) serve as magnifying lenses to understand the constantly changing frictions and relations between the state, key employers and society. We focus on medium-term changes and continuities in housing conditions of (and for) men and women living and working in the mining industry, commercial agriculture and as clerks in local administration.