Corridor Futures, Inherited Designs

Global development corridors are currently transforming our planetary geography. Combining logistics, digital infrastructures, and extractive industries, these transnational mega-projects are designed to serve as the newest drivers of capitalist expansion. They are also situated at the frontline of social and environmental struggle in an age of endemic crisis. Despite their promises of progress, many such projects iterate imperial designs, and the colonial relations of power through which these infrastructures were built are not just a thing of the past.

In asking what kind of future can be wrought from such design, this study focuses on the multiple inheritances and uncertainties that shape the LAPSSET (Lamu Port, South Sudan, Ethiopia Transport) Corridor, one of the largest such projects currently underway in Africa. The corridor project is central to Kenya’s current national development vision, known as “Kenya Vision 2030,” which aims to turn Kenya into a middle-income country by 2030. It is also part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and, with financing by a global mix of institutions, including European and American, and it has recently been adopted as one of the leading projects of the African Union and the East African Community.

Running from May 2020 until ca. April 2024, the study entails archival research, geographical fieldwork, architectural analysis, and oral history in selected locations in east Africa. Focusing on the design, planning, and implementation of railways, roads, camps, settlements, energy infrastructures, and industrial zones, the study exploresinfrastructure’s contradictory tendency of mobilizing anti-colonial aspirations while entrenching colonial power. By tracing how corridor projects are grafted on racialized regimes of mobility, extraction, and containment, the studyaims for a better understanding of the future of African urbanization in the face of planetary crisis, and the ongoing anti-colonial struggles inhabiting their design.

On the Mombasa-Nairobi highway in the 1960s