Coding the City

Mapping Eco-Systems and Zones of Opportunity in Kinshasa's Emerging Tech Scene

Authored by: Katrien Pype

Routledge Handbook of African Popular Culture

Print publication date:  May  2022
Online publication date:  May  2022

Print ISBN: 9780367483869
eBook ISBN: 9781003080855
Adobe ISBN:


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I propose that scholars of popular culture in Africa disentangle opportunity, aspiration and achievement in order to better understand how cultural entrepreneurs navigate their world. I illustrate this with a case study of the two practices enacted by Kinshasa’s geeks. First, they demarcate “zones of opportunity”, by valuating social environments (physical and digital) as commercially rewarding spaces. As Kinshasa’s tech entrepreneurs dream to become as rich as global tech icons such as Marc Zuckerberg, Jack Maa and Elon Musk, they rethink the urban as a conglomerate of zones of which some are more opportune for their tech career than other spaces. Some of these zones are located within the formal economy, while some other zones are embedded in the informal economy. Hotels are thickly charged places in Kinshasa’s emerging tech economy. The ethnography shows how “zones of opportunity” allow encounters and exchange, meetings with expats, investors, other “big men”, and fellow technologists. Second, they form adequate compositions, such as in hackathons, networking spaces, and digital conversations. Here, technologists collaborate and learn from each other; tech knowledge and skills are transferred, articulated, and tested. Together, both sets explain what “coding the city” entails. The material also allows me to distinguish between “formal” and “informal” eco-systems.

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