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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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Mapping Beirut Brings City to Light

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

As cities in the global South grow ever larger, their often-chaotic evolution can create sprawling urban mazes that would confuse even the brightest brains.

Streets can be unnamed, unnumbered, twisty, full of dead ends and alleys. Informal settlements can pop up within weeks, whole neighbourhoods are razed to the ground and replaced by gleaming office buildings and apartments within months. Some countries experience political instability and conflict, disrupting daily life and making planning difficult. All this chaos makes business and travel more inefficient, especially to visiting businesspeople looking to trade or tourists simply wanting to look around.

When a city fails to communicate its treasures, something is lost for both parties: the city’s businesses lose valuable custom and the visitor or resident fails to grasp what is on offer. How will you find the restaurant you want, or that shop with the just-right fashions?

Beirut is a city that has had its ups and downs. Once called “the Paris of the Middle East” for its beauty and cosmopolitan atmosphere, it descended into decades of civil war and unrest from 1975, most recently in 2006 it had a war with Israel. Its residents have grown used to a city of turmoil and rapid change. They also have grown used to a city that people navigate by landmarks rather than street names.

Bahi Ghubril grew fed up with the frustration of having to always ask people for directions to get around the city, or getting stuck behind drivers begging pedestrians for directions.

Inspired by London’s famous A-Z (http://www.a-zmaps.co.uk), he researched and launched the Zawarib Beirut Road Atlas in 2005 (http://twitter.com/#!/zawaribworld) and (http://www.facebook.com/zawarib).

It is part of a new trend across the global South: people using the slew of new information technologies and online resources to map and discover their neighbourhoods and cities. In turn, this is fuelling economic growth as people can find businesses and promote themselves to buyers and customers.

It took Ghubril two years to put together the first guide, gathering street images from satellite photos and then combining them with information collected on foot and from local mayors and cartographers.

“The project was born from a need to organise the city,” he told Monocle magazine, “but also as a socio-political project to open up the city to its residents and visitors.”

As an entrepreneur, Ghubril had no previous experience in publishing. He has been an actor and worked in finance.

During the research for the guide, Ghubril developed a rich knowledge of the city’s structure, its bureaucracy and how people really live their lives. His willingness to do this hard work is paying off.

Zawarib Beirut – which translates as Beirut Alleys – has successfully expanded into editions covering nearby cities, a pocket version, eight versions colourfully decorated by local artists, and the first Beirut bus map.

The service has a database including thousands of street names, landmarks, sectors and districts within the 34 municipal regions making up Greater Beirut. It includes useful phone numbers, car parks and a bus map. During holidays, like the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, it publishes a map of all of Beirut’s mosques.

Ghubril promotes the guide directly to the city’s residents. Wearing blue and black t-shirts asking “Lost? ask me,” young women help to distribute the guide on the streets of Beirut.

Other mapping projects depend on the mobile phones that are more and more part of daily life in the South’s slums – even for the poorest people. With the spread of mobile phones, it is becoming possible to develop a digital picture of a slum area and map its needs and population. It has become possible to undertake digital mapping initiatives to truly find out who is where and what is actually going on.

An NGO called Map Kibera (http://www.mapkibera.org) is working on an ambitious project to digitally map Africa’s largest slum, Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya.

The Map Kibera project uses an open-source software programme, OpenStreetMap (http://www.openstreetmap.org), to allow users to edit and add information as it is gathered. This information is then free to use by anybody wanting to grasp what is actually happening in Kibera: residents, NGOs, private companies and government officials.

It will literally put Kibera on Kenya’s map.

In Brazil, an NGO called Rede Jovem (http://www.redejovem.org.br) is deploying youths armed with GPS (global positioning system)-equipped (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Positioning_System) mobile phones to map the favelas of Rio de Janerio.

The mappers physically travel around the favela and upload information on each individual landmark (restaurants, roads etc.) as they go. They use Nokia N95s mobile phones that are connected to Google Maps (http://www.maps.google.com). The project then uses Wikimapa (http://www.wikimapa.org.br), and Twitter (http://www.twitter.com) to log the information.

Published: October 2011

Resources

1) Zawarib Beirut Road Atlas: The Zawarib Beirut can be purchased from Amazon’s website. Website: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Zawarib-Beirut-Greater-Atlas/dp/9953005311

2) Google Maps: A treasure trove of global maps and data. Website: http://maps.google.co.uk/

3) Google Street View: A global database of photographs showing neighbourhoods and streets. Website: http://maps.google.com/intl/en/help/maps/streetview/#utm_campaign=en&utm_medium=van&utm_source=en-van-na-us-gns-svn

4) Google Maps for mobile: Use Google Maps on your phone, and never carry a paper map again. Website: http://www.google.co.uk/mobile/maps/

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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Ghana: Oil-rich City Sparks Entrepreneurs and Debate

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Commodity booms can seem like the answer to a poor nation’s prayers, a way to fulfil all their development dreams and goals. The reality, however, is far more complex. More often than not, the discovery of resources sparks a mad scramble for profits and patronage, as politicians and politically connected elites carve out their slice of the new resource boom before anyone else.

The twin cities of Sekondi-Takoradi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sekondi-Takoradi) in the Western Region of Ghana are now experiencing an oil boom. Ghana’s oil production went online in December 2010 and the government is hoping it will double the country’s growth rate.

Large supplies of oil were found off the coast in 2007, transforming Takoradi from a sleepy, rundown port city into the hub for the oil boom.

Local man Peter Abitty told the BBC he was renting out an eight-bedroom house for US $5,000 a month. The house overlooks the sea and comes with banana and coconut trees.

“Tenants that come here can take the coconuts for free! We don’t charge anything,” Abitty said.

He put the strong interest in the house down to a simple fact: “It’s out there: oil, oil, oil.”

People’s hopes are being raised in Ghana’s case because it has built a reputation as a better-governed country than other African petro states like Nigeria and Angola.

But others argue that price increases caused by the boom are destroying local businesses. A report on the Ghana Oil news website found popular local businesses suffering. One example it gave was the Unicorn Internet Café, an employer of local youth, which shut down in 2010 because of high rents.

It found businesses have shut down in the following sectors: timber, sawmilling, super markets, mobile phone shops, boutiques and trading shops. But it also found many new businesses opening up, including banks, insurance companies and hotels.

The challenge facing Ghana is to ensure oil brings a long-term change to a higher value business environment and economy, rather than just an unequal and temporary boom.

Another challenge is to connect the many youth leaving education in the city with the jobs and opportunities being created by the oil industry. The twin cities are a regional educational centre with a lot of technical colleges and secondary schools.

To counter these concerns, a Regional Coordinating Council is promising to place the growth of small and medium enterprises at the centre of regional development.

The dreams and promises for Takoradi are very ambitious. “In five years time, I see Takoradi becoming one of the modern cities of the world,”  Alfred Fafali Adagbedu, the owner of Seaweld Engineering (www.seaweldghana.com), a new local company set up to service the oil sector, told the BBC.

“I can imagine skyscrapers, six-lane highways and malls.”

“The transport industry is going to improve, because workers on the rig are going to need to be transported. Agriculture is going to see a boom because all those people on the rig will need to be fed.

“Even market women are going to see more business, because a lot of workers are going to have very fat paychecks. Everyone in this city is going to gain in business.”

How far Takoradi has to travel to come close to meeting these dreams and expectations can be seen in its current state. The railway station has a train with laundry hanging from it because it hasn’t moved in years, reported the BBC. People are living in the sleeping car of the train.

But the typical signs of a boom are all visible: traffic jams, booked hotels, rising rents and prices, and it is already hurting people on fixed salaries.

Local authorities have plans to demolish rundown parts of the city and rebuild with modern office environments for the new businesses resulting from the oil economy.

An estimated US $1 billion a year in revenue will go to the Ghanaian government and local authorities want 10 percent of this to be ring-fenced for regional development.

“Many resources are coming from the western region. From years back, gold is here, timber is here, diamonds are here,” said Nana Kofi Abuna V, one of the few female chiefs in the area.

“But when they share the cake up there, they leave out the western region. This time, if there is oil and gas in the region we should benefit more than everybody else.”

But Adagbedu at Seaweld Ghana believes Ghana will see real improvements.

“I’m very sure we will avoid the mistakes,” he said. “Ghana is a democracy, everyone is watching, so there is going to be a lot of improvement here.”

And to help in keeping these promises, the BBC will continue to return to Sekondi-Takoradi to track its changes and see how things improve.

Published: September 2011

Resources

1) BarCamp Takoradi: BarCamp is an international network of user-generated conferences (or unconferences). They are open, participatory workshop-events, the content of which is provided by participants. Website:http://twitter.com/#!/barcamptakoradi

2) Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority: The Authority overlooks the Takoradi port. Website:http://www.ghanaports.gov.gh/GPHA/takoradi/index.html

3) Friends of the Nation (FON): The NGO serves as a catalyst towards increased action for sustainable natural resource management and health environment in the Takoradi region. Website: http://www.fonghana.20m.com/aboutus1.htm

4) Takoradi City: A website packed with information and photos on the city. Website:http://www.takoradicity.com/pages/sections.php?siteid=takoradicity&mid=39

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

More Futuristic African Cities in the Works

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

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

Resources

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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