My name is Ian Plekker, from the Netherlands. I am 24 years old and a masters student in International Development Studies at Utrecht University. For my masters thesis research I am conducting fieldwork research here in Kampala with Urban Action Lab to study the impacts of the Kampala-Jinja Expressway. My undergraduate degree was in human geography and spatial planning, so I have particular experience with and interest in studying spatial phenomena.
When I heard about this research project and the Urban Action Lab, I was immediately intrigued. The Kampala-Jinja Expressway is part of a larger development corridor, and is framed as important for Uganda’s further development and increased interconnectedness with the rest of the world. When looking at Kampala’s jammed-up main roads, the importance of a new highway to connect the suburbs and other cities with Kampala seems self-evident. However, local effects such as development-induced displacement can disproportionately negatively impact vulnerable people living in urban informal settlements, such as Kinawataka and many others. These impacts are as of yet not fully addressed or researched. Therefore, me and my colleague Emily Strong are collaborating with Teddy Kisembo at Urban Action Lab to find out who will be impacted by the construction of this highway and how.
My research will focus on two particularities within this project: people’s mobility and the intra- and inter-slum dynamics. Mobility is increasingly thought of as key to people’s livelihoods. Indeed, in our currently globalized world it would be almost impossible to conceive of a completely immobile life. However, mobility is also rooted in power and inequalities and therefore, some people are more vulnerable than others. In my research I will look at what people’s current mobility patterns are, using techniques such as cognitive mapping and walking interviews in these informal settlement communities.
Another issue that I want to look at is the diversity within and between informal settlements. These intra- and inter-slum disparities and dynamics are not taken into account in policy, which instead usually refers to “the slum” as a homogenous local community. For my bachelor thesis, I did a literature review on interventions targeting basic service improvement in informal settlements, and I found that these informal settlements are characterized by diversity rather than uniformity. Taking into account these diverse livelihoods and looking at people’s complex mobilities in the pre-displacement phase of the Kampala-Jinja Expressway, my research seeks to inform later research conducted after the displacement as a kind of pre-assessment, as well as inform policy on displacement and resettlement caused by the construction of such development corridors.