This monographic overview article presents an urban history of Niger’s capital Niamey with the lens on three aspects: the urban and spatial development, the evolution of urban land rights, and the dynamics of socio-political institutions. It is based on the sparse scientific and grey literature, available mostly in French, and aims to provide a concise overview in English on the becoming of this rather unknown Sahelian capital. Obviously, the development of the city is shaped by public policies on urban land as well as by the social and political organization at the local and supra-local levels. The city’s political and spatial evolution is therefore traced through the following four stages: (1) from the pre-colonial origins on which the foundations of land rights date, (2) to the colonial period, where the foundations of the city and the country were laid, (3) to the first decades after independence with its rather repressive policies on urban planning, (4) and finally the last three decades of democratization and rapid urbanisation. A chronological narrative is used for this urban history of Niamey, especially for the pre-colonial and colonial periods which are less documented in literature and seem more homogeneous in terms of the direction of change. From independence onwards, however, urban, political, institutional and land developments become more complex and the literature more abundant. The chronological narrative is therefore abandoned from this point on, in favour of a more thematic narrative through the post-colonial and contemporary decades.
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African Cities Journal aspires to gather existing and future knowledge in the field of urban spaces in Africa through original research articles, as well as more prospective endeavours of theory and methodology.