Rapid growth, unmanageable cities, urban crisis – the cities of West Africa are no longer plannable—at least not by using traditional urban development tools. Without negating the importance of participatory approaches for making the city, it nonetheless seems crucial to return to city plans and models, to what they convey and how they are built. But in order to understand the city in all its depth, we must also hit the streets. The West African City proposes a dual perspective. At the urban scale, it analyzes historical trajectories, spatial development and urban planning documents to highlight the major trends beyond the plans. At the second level, that of public space, the street is discussed as the lifeblood of urban issues. By innovating approaches and testing new methods, The West African City offers an unconventional look at Nouakchott, Dakar and Abidjan, the three study sites of this investigation. The city of today – be it in Africa or elsewhere - must re-examine its many social, economic, cultural, political and spatial dimensions; for this, urban research has begun challenging its own methods.