This article critically compares the planning and production of ‘native’ housing estates in Douala and Lomé up to the Second World War, for which academic interest has been minimal. Although these two cities had been inhabited by local ethnic groups for much longer, both became the object of German planning initiatives as of the late nineteenth century. Around 1910, this resulted in the introduction of public housing for African citizens as a serious issue, for which the planning and design in both cities departed from similar urban-colonial visions, while interacting and conflicting which what would prove to be resilient, pre-existing actors. A main reason why German ‘native’ housing projects were hardly realized until 1918 and would undergo important (trans)mutations while built under the French administration. Using a comparative ANT-inspired analysis, attention is paid to the untangling of relevant actors and actor-networks; to the nuancing of presumed ruptures between successive (in this cases German and French) colonial systems; and to the friction between (urban) planning and built realities. This article is part of an ongoing research into concepts, models and realities that figure in Sub-Sahara African urban transformations since the early twentieth century, more specifically those related to ‘native’ housing production.