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Today's rapid global urbanization highlights the need for long-term transformations of basic service sectors in developing cities in order to improve the livelihoods of the urban poor. Sustainability transitions frameworks have proven fruitful for addressing these sort of challenges. However, they have been at pains so far in accounting for the heterogeneity and complexities that typically characterize informal settlements in the Global South. We therefore propose a conceptual framework that extends the conventional analysis of socio-technical regimes by distinguishing the two levels of sectoral regime and service regime. Challenges for sustainability transitions may then be identified by missing alignments within and among the two regime levels. The framework is applied to the sanitation sector of Nairobi, Kenya, a city experiencing rapid population growth and a highly uneven provision of basic services. Drawing on a set of 152 in-depth interviews, observations, and five focus group discussions, the paper reconstructs the prevailing service regimes and shows how they suffer from misalignments and dysfunctionalities creating all sorts of problems at a sectoral level. We conclude that Nairobi's sanitation sector can best be characterized as representing a splintered regime. The paper concludes with a discussion of how the new conceptualization of socio-technical regimes suggests some new sustainable transition pathways and how this framework might also be instructive for transition challenges in cities of the Global North.

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Technological Forecasting and Social Change

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