It has been well documented that China is undergoing the largest migration in human history from rural areas to cities. But this urbanization trend is occurring across the global South, including in Africa, as well. According to the UN, more than half the world’s population already lives in cities, and 70 per cent will live in urban areas by 2050. Most of the world’s population growth is concentrated in urban areas in the global South.
These emerging urban areas represent vast opportunities for innovators. Innovators will be needed to build them, and in turn they will provide modern facilities for innovators to operate in and engage with the global economy. And they will connect innovators to 21st-century information technology.
But while the government in China engages in significant planning and preparation to facilitate movements to urban areas – often building entire cities from scratch (http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1975397,00.html) – that has not been the case in Africa. People in Africa are on the move because they are seeking out opportunities, but much of this movement has been poorly planned and not well thought out.
But now more and more African governments are grappling with how to call time on chaotic and haphazard development and build sustainable, planned cities that will significantly improve human development and quality of life.
Across Africa, a host of ambitious new cities and urban developments are in the works.
Kenya’s Konza Technology City (konzacity.co.ke) is planned as a new centre 60 kilometres from the capital, Nairobi. Calling itself a “world-class technology hub and a major economic driver for the nation”, it offers a high-tech vision full of ultra-modern buildings and houses in order to spur the future growth of Kenya’s technology industry.
It is hoped Konza will create 100,000 jobs by 2030. There will be a central business district, a university campus for 1,500 students, a residential community, and parks and wildlife in green corridors.
The groundbreaking ceremony occurred on January 2013 but the Kenyan Ministry of Lands and Housing has halted operations to allow for greater community engagement, according to Urban Africa. A dispute had erupted with the current landowners who wanted to be better consulted about the development and had accused the government of locking them out of the physical planning process.
Tatu City, Kenya (tatucity.com) bills itself as “by Kenyans, for Kenyans”. It is being built by Rendeavour (rendeavour.com), the urban development division of Moscow-based Renaissance Group (rengroup.com), one of the largest urban developers of land in Africa. It joins Konza Technology City as a flagship project for the government’s Vision 2030, hoping to turn Kenya into a middle-income country and a role model for other countries in East Africa.
Tatu City is 15 kilometres from Nairobi. It will take up 1,035 hectares and will be completed in 10 phases. Construction began in May 2012 and is scheduled to be completed by 2022.
It is selling safety and a “beautiful urban environment” just a short journey away from Nairobi’s existing Central Business District. Tatu City wants to be “a model of the African city of the future” as a “dynamic mixed-use, mixed-income environment that will be home to an estimated 70,000 residents and 30,000 day visitors”.
Just 25 minutes from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, it promises to be one of “the most modern, well-planned urban developments in East Africa”.
In Ghana, a number of innovative projects in development reflect the country’s impressive economic growth and information technology achievements in the past decade.
Two cities are being designed by Rendeavour. One, Appolonia, is being built in the Greater Accra area while the second, King City, is being built on the west coast of the country where there is an oil and gas boom underway.
Both will have houses, retail and commercial centres, schools, healthcare facilities and other social services.
“Our objective is to provide the basic infrastructure, planning and necessary management framework in creating satellite cities that reverses the current trend of unplanned development and urban congestion in most of Africa’s growing cities,” Tim Beighton of Rendeavour told CNN.
These projects are in an advanced stage, with all plans completed and approved by the government, according to their websites.
Appolonia City of Light near Accra (appolonia.com.gh) – due to break ground in the third quarter of 2013 – capitalizes on Accra’s status as one of Africa’s fastest-growing urban areas. The Appolonia development will be a “planned, sustainable, mixed-use and mixed-income city” to build a “work-live-play” community for 88,000 people living in 22,000 homes.
It will be built 30 kilometres northeast of Accra’s central business district and will have retail, commercial and industrial space combined with tourism, social and recreation facilities.
King City in Takoradi (kingcity.com.gh) calls itself “Western Ghana’s new holistic city”. It will offer homes, shops, offices, industries and public places. The plan includes building 25,000 new homes and, importantly, over 30 per cent of the city will be allocated for green space. It will take up 1,000 hectares on the outskirts of Sekondi-Takoradi.
Elsewhere in Accra, the Hope (Home Office People Environment) City (http://www.rlgghana.com/index.php/2013-02-07-11-25-04.html) is a much more ambitious concept. It is one of a cluster of projects in Africa focused on building the infrastructure for a 21st century, high-tech future. Costing US $10 billion, it will be built outside Accra and is focused on boosting Ghana’s already established reputation in the field of information and communications technology. It will be home to 25,000 people and create jobs for 50,000. There will be six towers including a 75-storey, 270 metre building that hopes to be the highest in Africa.
It is being financed by RLG Communications, a mix of investors and a stock-buying scheme.
There will be an assembly plant for high-tech products, business offices an information technology university, a hospital and restaurants, theaters and sports centres.
The design is hyper-modern and tries to create a vertical office environment that is dense and reduces the amount of time it takes to get around and circulate between businesses in the complex.
Eko Atlantic on Victoria Island in Lagos, Nigeria (ekoatlantic.com) is a coastal residential and business development that calls itself “The New Gateway to Africa”. To ease pressure in an already crowded city, it is being built on 10 square kilometres of reclaimed land from the Atlantic Ocean. It will be able to house 250,000 people and give work to 150,000.
The story began in 2003 when the Lagos State government was looking for a solution to protect the Bar Beach area of the city from coastal erosion. Land is being reclaimed from the sea and it will make up an area the equivalent of Manhattan in New York City. Just like Manhattan, it is hoped Eko Atlantic will become the new financial centre for West Africa by the year 2020.
Kilamba, or Nova Cidade de Kilamba (https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.231897596836631.80284.228497773843280), 30 kilometres outside Luanda, Angola is being built by the China International Trust and Investment Corporation (http://www.citic.com/wps/portal). It is on a vast scale and is designed to be home to 500,000 people with apartment blocks and commercial spaces. It has cost so far US $3.5 billion and is part of a government pledge to provide a million new homes within four years. Kilamba has come in for criticism for not being affordable enough for ordinary Angolans and for having much of the site unoccupied. With the apartments too expensive for ordinary Angolans, the government has decided to take action and ordered the prices to be reduced and made more affordable, according to Angola Press .
La Cite du Fleuve in the Democratic Republic of Congo (lacitedufleuve.com) is a more conventional luxury housing development built on two islands in the capital, Kinshasa. Kinshasa, despite its problems and the turmoil from an ongoing civil war, is one of the continent’s fastest-growing cities. Developed by Hawkwood Properties, La Cite du Fleuve will need to reclaim 375 hectares of sandbanks and swamps to be able to build a collection of riverside villas, offices and shopping centres. It is is planned to take 10 years to complete.
And finally, Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, wants to transform itself into the “center of urban excellence in Africa”.
The 2020 Kigali Conceptual Master Plan (http://www.kigalicity.gov.rw/spip.php?article494) hopes to create a regional hub for business, trade and tourism, by building a mix of commercial and shopping districts with glass skyscrapers and modern hotels, parks and entertainment facilities.
Critics, however, believe these new cities and modern developments are tackling the problems of urban development by bypassing most of the population. They argue they are just developments for those with money who can buy their way out of the chaos and lack of planning of current African cities.
“They are essentially designed for people with money,” Vanessa Watson, professor of city planning at the University of Cape Town, told CNN. She believes most of the plans are unsustainable “urban fantasies” detached from the reality of African poverty and informal living.
But while it is easy to criticize these ambitious projects, they reflect not only optimism for the continent’s future but also a clear recognition the continent will not be able to get wealthier without modern cities and infrastructure in keeping with a 21st-century economy.
Published: August 2013
1) Southern Innovator Issue 4: Cities and Urbanization: SI’s fourth issue goes to the many new cities under construction to build the new 21st century world emerging in the global South. Website: http://www.scribd.com/doc/133622315/Southern-Innovator-Magazine-Issue-4-Cities-and-Urbanization
2) Urban Africa: Urban Africa is a digital entry point for knowledge sharing, interactive exchange and information dissemination on urbanization in Africa. Website: http://urbanafrica.net/
3) Arrival City: A third of humanity is on the move. History’s largest migration is creating new urban spaces that are this century’s focal points of conflict and change — unseen districts of rapid transformation and febrile activity that will reshape our cities and reconfigure our economies. Website: http://arrivalcity.net/
4) Global Urbanist: The Global Urbanist is an online magazine reviewing urban affairs and urban development issues in cities throughout the developed and developing world. Website: globalurbanist.com
5) Africa Renewal: The Africa Renewal information programme, produced by the Africa Section of the United Nations Department of Public Information, provides up-to-date information and analysis of the major economic and development challenges facing Africa today. Website: http://www.un.org/africarenewal/
Cited in Beyond Gated Communities by Samer Bagaeen and Ola Uduku (2015).
Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.
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