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Housing Innovation in South’s Urban Areas

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

As urban populations around the South increase, the quality of city housing will be critical to the quality of life and sustainability of improvements to living standards.

Living in crowded and chaotic urban and semi-urban areas does not have to mean suffering poor quality housing. A variety of Southern architects are showing how new perspectives on common problems like cramped spaces, traffic noise, minimal green spaces and tight budgets can be addressed with clever thinking and new concepts.

The bustling and crowded Brazilian city of Sao Paulo has evolved in a chaotic fashion over the years. As Brazilian photographer Reinaldo Coser admitted to design and architecture magazine Dwell (www.dwell.com) , in many places it is “very ugly.”

Sao Paulo suffers from the downside of rapid urban and semi-urban development familiar to cities across the South: traffic gridlock, pollution, noise. It’s a toxic combination of factors that turns even simple tasks like buying groceries into depressingly long, stressful ordeals.

Coser’s family home sits a couple hundred metres from the congested Avenida Brigadeiro Faria Lima (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avenida_Brigadeiro_Faria_Lima) , the city’s unofficial main street. Yet the dwelling has been cleverly designed to make living in the centre of this modern urban hurly burly a peaceful and calming oasis. Designed by Brazilian architects Studio MK27 (http://www.marciokogan.com.br) – and in keeping with the rich Brazilian modernist tradition pioneered by Oscar Niemeyer in the country’s capital, Brasilia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bras%C3%ADlia) – the home uses clever techniques to build calm into chaos.

The front and back gardens are level with the living room, creating an enormous living space that seamlessly flows from indoor to outdoor space. By using a large overhang over the gardens, even on rainy days the home can be lived in almost without walls.

Furniture in the home draws on Brazilian designers like Sergio Rodrigues (http://www.sergiorodrigues.com.br).

One of several innovative Brazilian firms, Studio MK27 was founded in the 1980s by Marcio Kogan. It has 12 architects from around the world collaborating on projects.

With a metropolitan population of around 20 million, Sao Paulo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C3%A3o_Paulo) is the most populous city in the Americas, and in the Southern hemisphere.

While it is easy to point out the downsides of rapid and chaotic urban development, Coser, a professional photographer, lives and loves Sao Paulo nonetheless because, like so many cities across the South, it is a vibrant and dynamic place to be.

And by choosing a design for his home that is calming, he has been able to introduce balance into his family’s life while benefiting from the economic opportunities of the city.

“This house has actually changed the rhythm of our lives,” he told Dwell. “We eat at home more. We go to bed earlier. We wake up earlier. We sleep more.”

And how has the calm helped his two daughters? One is able to play without disturbing the neighbours, and the other can quietly study her books, which was difficult when the family lived in the noise and buzz of a small two-bedroom apartment.

And – something often overlooked in development plans cooked up by economists and urban planners – the aesthetics of the house are very appealing. “Our house is so pretty,” says his wife, Sophia. “Sometimes I like to just look at it for a long time.”

This calm home was created out of basic need. The family needed more space with a second daughter on the way, and had become frustrated with the congestion of the city and the lack of green space. Architect Marcio Kogan was consulted for a solution.

“We wanted a place where we could just shut the door and travel,” says Reinaldo.

The house is made from raw concrete and a cheap-but-tough local wood called cumaru (http://tinyurl.com/3y8kh8v) . By using inexpensive and low maintenance materials, the home is able to weather the environmental stresses of a polluted, tropical city with harsh sunshine.

Kogan deployed his previous experience as a filmmaker to make the home feel and look more spacious and open than it is. He calls it “looking at the world through a wide-screen lens.” The design of the home is seen as a “narrative”, leading the occupant from the garden to the living room, up the stairs, past bedrooms to a rooftop deck with panoramic views of the city.

Another innovative solution in Sao Paulo is USINA (http://www.usinactah.org.br) – a finalist for the World Habitat Awards (http://www.worldhabitatawards.org/about/?lang=00) – which brings people together to build high-density urban housing. It has aided more than 5,000 people to build with their own labour multi-storey buildings. These new apartments are not isolated from other services, but come with community facilities, childcare facilities, professional training courses and other employment-generating activities.

It is estimated up to 15 percent of the city’s population live in slums. This community organising approach is in contrast to the existing ad-hoc building of homes in the slums – often with no technical assistance – or public housing projects built by developers looking for quick profits while ignoring quality and services. USINA’s approach has led to Sao Paulo being a pioneer in participatory housing policies.

USINA provides the technical assistance to social movements looking to build housing for the poor. The cost for the buildings is borne by a combination of public funding and the labour of the residents (working 16 hours per week per household). The cost per housing unit tends to be between US $12,000 and US $15,000 (with land usually donated free by public authorities).

Architectural innovation is also underway in Indonesia, another country that has experienced spurts of rapid economic growth and urbanization, and where a growing middle class is demanding a higher quality of life.

The country’s capital, Jakarta (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jakarta) , with a population over 8 million, is a mixed bag of modern skyscrapers, crumbling colonial architecture, suburbs and slums.

In the Jakarta suburb of Bekasi (population more than 2 million), Nugrohu Wisnu was looking for a little more space for his family.

At first, the family encountered the downside of poorly designed housing. They bought a house which was infested with termites and was uncomfortable to live in. Frustrated, they began shopping around for something better. And they turned to Indonesian architects Djuhara + Djuhara (http://djuhara.com/home.html).

“We thought that an all-steel house like the one that Mr. Djuhara had built just down the road would be termite resistant,” Wisnu told Dwell.

Djuhara is a high-profile architect and chair of the Jakarta chapter of the Indonesian Institute of Architects (http://www.iai.or.id) and helped to modernize the city’s planning regulations.

The stereotype of young Indonesian architects is that they only work on luxury hotels. But Djuhara was designing and building suburban homes and this grabbed Wisnu’s attention.

Also against stereotype, Djuhara was actually attracted by a tight budget and the small space for the house. In a crowded city, using every bit of space efficiently is critical. The existing house was torn down and Djuhara set about building a new home. The majority of the building materials were sourced within the immediate area: an easy thing to do in Jakarta since there are many vendors selling building supplies on the streets.

By buying local like this, shipping costs were eliminated from the cost of the house. The home’s cost, US $20,000, is just 2/3 of what a more conventional Indonesian home would cost.

Djuhara revelled in the job: “Ad-hocism is my religion,” he told Dwell.

The split-level design of the home uses the space well. The kitchen opens up into the garden.

“Family breakfasts are great in here,” says Wisnu. “And the open kitchen encourages the kids to head out into the garden and run and play.”

There is also a strong environmental component to the design. Airflow cavities in the ceiling are used in the bedrooms to cool them. The house also uses heavy wooden shutters to keep the house cool during the day: “The shutters are unusual, but they are thick and sturdy,” Wisnu explains.

“They really shade the master bedroom to the extent that it feels mellow and cool. They let us reduce our air-conditioning consumption, even during the height of the day.”

And Djuhara also has another difference from many other architects: he refuses to patent his design.

“My friends have asked me why I don’t patent my low-cost houses,” he explains, “but they completely miss the point. I actually want my designs to be copied. I want Indonesian society to rethink its attitudes towards urban architecture.”

Published: June 2010

Resources

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. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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South Gets Reading Bug with more Festivals

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

There is no better indicator of significant economic progress than the rise and rise of book festivals across the South. These symbols of intellectually curious and globally aware middle classes are also boosting economies and contributing to a bigger, more sophisticated creative economy – something that will drive future growth across many sectors.

The trend is most advanced in Asia, where according to the OECD, “large numbers of Asians are expected to become middle class in the next 10 years” (OECD Working Paper No. 285). But the rising middle class can also be found across the South – and so can the new book festivals.

According to Sanjoy Roy, managing director of New Delhi-based festival producer Teamwork Productions (www.teamworkfilms.com) ,” India’s rising economic growth has ensured that the great middle class is happy to travel and to spend.”

“More and more Indians are taking to tourism both local and international. India’s large middle-aged upper middle class and wealthy sector feeds occasions like the literature festival, ensuring attendance, making it a word of mouth must-be-seen, must-attend occasion on the social season calendar.”

Recognition of the importance of this trend can be seen in the recent growth in book festivals associated with the Hay Festival (www.hayfestival.com) based in Hay-on-Wye, Wales. There are now Hay festivals in Beirut, Lebanon; Bogota and Cartagena, Colombia; Zacatecas, Mexico; Nairobi, Kenya; the Maldives; and the Indian state of Kerala.

The festivals are part of the powerful global creative economy, which is seen as the “interface between creativity, culture, economics and technology in a contemporary world dominated by images, sounds, texts and symbols” (UNCTAD). The cultural sector has been shown to be an effective way for emerging economies to leapfrog into high-growth areas in the 21st century world economy.

Roy also confirms the economic impact of book festivals. He produces India’s Jaipur Literature Festival (www.jaipurliteraturefestival.org) , which attracted over 32,000 visitors this year. The hard numbers show the economic impact of the event: “Approximately 3,000 room nights were booked by visitors during this period at an average of US $100 per night,” Roy said. “Our own spend in Jaipur during this period was approximately US $500,000. Shopping, meals and transport spend I would peg at between US $200,000 and US $300,000.”

The OECD defines the global middle class as those living in households with daily per capita incomes of between US$10 and US$100. It calculates that Asia accounts for less than one-quarter of today’s middle class, but says that share could double by 2020. Within a decade, “more than half of the world’s middle class could be in Asia and Asian consumers could account for over 40 per cent of global middle class consumption.”

The World Bank takes an even more optimistic view, seeing this burgeoning middle class’ spending power as being triggered once people get out of the desperation of a subsistence existence. This means the “developing world’s middle class is defined as those who are not poor when judged by the median poverty line of developing countries, but are still poor by US standards. The “Western middle class” is defined as those who are not poor by US standards.” Although barely 80 million people in the developing world entered the Western middle class over 1990-2002, it found an extra 1.2 billion people joined the developing world’s middle class. Four-fifths came from Asia, and half from China (World Bank).

With the rise of the creative sector, significant innovation will come from the global South, according to the director of the Hay Festival, Peter Florence.

“The digital revolution will be absolutely essential to developing countries,” he told the Associated Press. “They are going to skip two levels of publishing industry tradition. The mobile phone is more important for writers in those societies than pen and paper is. That is a very interesting continuation of oral culture. At the same time the West has decided to start moving from audio editions to digital downloads, oral culture is just moving straight into digital culture in many places around the world.”

The impact of a growing middle class can be seen in fast-growing India, which is forecast to become the largest market for English language books within a decade.

A survey by Tehelka (www.tehelka.com) found Indians favour stories about local conditions and set in the places where they live.

India’s most popular current writer is Chetan Bhagat, a former investment banker. He has sold more than 3 million books in the last five years. His latest, Two States, sold a million copies in four months.

Bhagat writes about the country’s aspiring middle class. His publisher, Rupa (www.rupapublications.com/Client/home.aspx) , believes he appeals to a “pan-Indian, pan-age group.”

For Roy, it is still too early to tell how the new Hay Kerala festival in the state capital, Thiruvananthapuram, will affect the economy of the area (the first one is from November 12 to 14, 2010).

“In the long term we hope this too becomes like Jaipur, attracting an international and national audience from outside the state,” he said. “Kerala has a robust economy. What it may do is increase the total tourist influx into the city and divert some of the annual Goa traffic to its own benefit.”

Roy says the Hay Festival Kerala will follow the programming pattern of other Hay festivals, combining international authors with a strong local flavour.

“India is celebrating its golden age in the creative arts and literature not just in English but across all official and subsidiary Indian languages,” he said. “The depth, scope, extent and range of writing in both fiction and non-fiction is incredible.”

Drawing on his success with the festival in Jaipur, Roy has advice for others in the South looking for creative economy success.

“It’s all about location, location, location,” he said. “A festival city like that of Cannes, Venice, Edinburgh, Avignon, Hay are special. Choose the right location, be inclusive and bring the local community on board and have the power to sustain – and in due course with a strong programming base, the festival will grow.

“Every festival will have its own learning (curve) and those who take these on board will find it easier to be successful.”

Published: June 2010

Resources

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. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

Categories
Archive

Kenyan Products a Global Success Story

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

The East African nation of Kenya has become synonymous with high-quality agricultural products, and offers lessons for other countries across the South. The country has been able to combine innovation in new technologies (it is a pioneer in mobile phone applications like m-banking), with quality control for its products like the Coffee Kenya Brand logo (http://www.coffeeboardkenya.org) and ease of access to information on Kenyan products and resources via the internet – crucial to drumming up international business – like the SME Toolkit Kenya (http://kenya.smetoolkit.org/kenya/en) .

There are several advantages to improving standards and productivity in agricultural products in Africa. The first is regional: greater productivity and efficiency will help in reducing malnutrition and food crises that have plagued the continent for decades. Secondly, it also allows Africa to export food to other countries with fast-growing economies and boost the continent’s wealth.

The dramatic changes taking place in African countries – especially rapid urbanization that has made the continent home to 25 of the world’s fastest growing cities (International Institute for Environment and Development) – means there is an urgent need to increase food production and stabilize rural economies to support farming.

Kenya is considered home to one of the continent’s most successful agricultural production zones, with multiple agricultural products and brands developing a solid global reputation for quality.

The country benefits from the fertile Great Rift Valley (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Rift_Valley) , where the country’s biggest crops – tea and coffee – are grown.

Agriculture is a key part of Kenya’s economy: 75 percent of the working population is employed in the sector. Farming sits behind tourism as the country’s second biggest contributor – 20 percent – to the gross domestic product (GDP).

Kenya has had a great deal of success with fruits, vegetables and flowers (Kenyan flowers are a mainstay of many European supermarkets). Kenya has been able to achieve this by using well the 10 percent of the country’s land that is suitable for farming.

Around Mount Kenya (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Kenya) , the cool and wet climate is perfect for farming tea, coffee, flowers, vegetables, corn and sisal. Other products that have been successfully grown include sugar cane, pineapple, cashew nuts, cotton, and livestock-related products – dairy goods, meat, hides and skins.

Kenya’s main export markets are the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Pakistan and the United States. This agricultural export success has had a knock-on effect of reinforcing a global reputation as one of Africa’s best countries for business.

In the tea market, James Finlay and Williamson have a strong reputation and sell to major supermarkets in the UK.

Another successful tea company is Kenya Tea Packers Limited (Ketepa) (http://www.ketepa.com) . A Kenyan-owned company, it enhances the standard of living of the small scale tea growers of Kenya who are the bulk of its shareholders.

Kenya is one of the world’s top 20 coffee producers and has a good reputation for its Arabica beans. Kenya produces 2 million bags of coffee a year and the coffee industry employs 6 million people (www.coffeeboardkenya.org) .

When it comes to exporting flowers (http://www.kenyan-flowers.com) , Kenya is a global powerhouse: 38 percent of the world’s exported flowers are grown there. The majority – 97 percent – are sent to the European Union. Its popular flowers include chrysanthemums, roses and carnations. This time-sensitive crop benefits from the air links of its capital, Nairobi.

Kenya even has a successful brand of beer, Tusker Lager (http://www.tuskerlager.co.uk) . It is a leading export and is proudly African, with its elephant logo and motto “My beer, my country.” It has a large market in the United Kingdom.

Published: June 2010

Resources

  • Small businesses looking to develop their brand can find plenty of free advice and resources here. Website: www.brandingstrategyinsider.com
  • Brandchannel: The world’s only online exchange about branding, packed with resources, debates and contacts to help businesses intelligently build their brand. Website: www.brandchannel.com
  • Just Food is a web portal packed with the latest news on the global food industry and packed with events and special briefings to fill entrepreneurs in on the difficult issues and constantly shifting market demands. Website: www.just-food.com
  • World Vegetable Center: The World Vegetable Center is the world’s leading international non-profit research and development institute committed to alleviating poverty and malnutrition in developing countries through vegetable research and development. Website: www.avrdc.org
  • Marketing African Leafy Vegetables: Challenges and Opportunities in the Kenyan Context By Kennedy M. Shiundu and Ruth. K. Oniang. Website: http://www.ajfand.net/Issue15/PDFs/8%20Shiundu-IPGR2_8.pdf
  • Olam: A global food supply company in ‘agri-products’ that got its start in Nigeria – shows how a Southern brand can grow and go global, and overcome the difficulties of cross-border trade. Website: www.olamonline.com
  • Dutch Design in Development will help Southern entrepreneurs and small enterprises to develop their brand and design identity and production processes by using experienced Dutch designers. Website: www.ddid.nl/english/index.html

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. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022