This study attempts to throw new light on the politico-economic, social and cultural processes which underpin the development of major African cities and shapes their role within the world economy. The distinctive features of "the African condition", with its colonial legacy, stark contrasts between wealth and poverty and the external influences of the world economy, are blended with systematic analysis of national and urban modes of production, access to and control over land and shelter, and the nature of formal and popular planning activities. The production and reproduction of cities are shown to be quintessentially social processes. The author draws on examples from across Africa and detailed case studies of Nairobi - the city with arguably the greatest international role at present - and integrates various scales from global to intra-urban, placing them in an analytical framework that will be of direct relevance to other Third World regions. It should be of interest to researchers and planners concerned with overall issues of global urbanization and developing economies throughout the world.