Mobilities in Rural Africa: New Connections, New Challenges


Fluid interdependencies of mobility—physical and virtual—are growing rapidly in sub-Saharan Africa: The remarkable expansion of mobile phone networks is bringing a tangible new dimension of connectivity into mobility, transport, and access equations on the ground. This article draws on in-depth field research, including co-investigation with two groups often disadvantaged in their physical mobility, youth and older people, to explicate some current African developments and their departure from prevailing Western-based conceptualizations of space–time interactions (regarding the potential for space–time flexibility and microcoordination afforded by mobile phones). Despite the fact that face-to-face interaction is often of great significance in Africa, when the value attached to personalized relationships is balanced against factors of widespread poverty and irregular, sometimes very dangerous transport, the potential for phone substitution appears greater than in many Western contexts. Better distance management through phone use could be particularly closely associated with populations with very low disposable incomes or those whose physical mobility is limited; for instance, by disability, infirmity, age, or gender. KeyWords: copresence, motorcycle-taxi transport, phones, physical mobility, poverty.


Porter, G. Mobilities in Rural Africa: New Connections, New Challenges. Annals of the American Association of Geographers (2016) : 1-8. [DOI: 10.1080/00045608.2015.1100056]

Mobilities in Rural Africa: New Connections, New Challenges

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