Angola's New Citadels : Nova Cidade do Kilamba


The Western architectural media is having a good old time lambasting the newly completed Nova Cidade de Kilamba, which popped up some 30 km South East of Luanda's CBD on a 5,000 hectare site at a cost of US$3.5 Billion. The satellite city, one of many under way in Angola, was financed and built by Chinese state owned companies and paid for with oil revenue. It is designed to accomodate half a million inhabitants and offers 750 eight-storey apartment buildings, a dozen schools and more than 100 retail units. (source)  The city was built in just over three years.

Angola's CEO, Eduardo dos Santos, calls Kilamba a shiny example of his social policy. Critics claim that the average Angolan cannot afford apartments that cost between US$100,000 and US$250,000 and are located miles from their workplace - the "average" Angolan apparently survives on US$2.00/day. Angolan officials counterclaim that these cities are designed to house the middle class and not the poorest of the poor - that sector of the population already occupies the old city of Luanda and is the focus of a different type of housing project.

It is true that Angola is a country of wealth extremes with a tiny wealthy elite, a very small middle class and a vast majority of extremely poor people. Only around 10% of the 2,800 apartments on offer have been sold and most buildings and facilities are currently standing empty. Read  a complete and biased report from our Beeb friends here. A BBC reporter recently visited the city and filed video footage of the "ghost city" available here.

This is what Andrew Michier had to said about Kilamba in inhabitat;

" a candy-colored city of identical midrise apartments ...  monolithic development feels more like a prison camp than community."

"It’s hard to see how the city will ever prosper due to the centrally-planned, rainbow-hued cluster bomb of buildings. The car-dependent culture disconnected from the capital and lack of basic amenities like local shopping and gathering places seem to doom the development to the scrap heap. From Chicago’s Cabrini Green to Soviet Era block housing, few mega-scale housing projects lead to a better life for the occupants.  More likely the housing will end up serving an immigrant population feeding the flow of oil to China in the coming years  ... "

Above : The New Luanda
Below: The Old Luanda

Some fifteen years ago I was being shown around Luanda by a local architect. Coming from South Africa I had never seen such levels of urban degradation, poverty and despair so I asked him how one went about fixing a city so broken. "You can't fix this. It is beyond any form of intervention or repair," he replied. "You have to build satellite cities around this existing megaslum and when those satellites are up and running you flatten the old city completely and rebuild it from scratch - it will take 100 years. "

Judging by the progress that has been made on the city's perimeter belt outside the ring road, it will take a lot less. Take a look at Luanda's new standium, located near Kilamba, which looks decidely Chinese from above. Not far to the east Africa's largest international airport is taking shape - thanks to the Chinese. There is a lot going on in Angola and it's big!

And speaking of the Chinese... Their ever increasing numbers and projects in Africa have got the Western mafias in a spin. Having eclipsed the USA as Africa's biggest trading partner some time back, China's dominance in Africa is now irreversible. Recently Obamney's bosses ordered him to send a sidekick to Africa to make matters clear to the countries looking East.

Hilary Clinton. that dreadful American drone, promptly flew over our continent to warn Africans of the dangers of doing business with China. She wanted to know why Africans were buying cities and stadia from China when they should be buying guns and bombs from the US to protect themselves from "terror".  Go figure ...

It is hard to imagine what will become of these odd little Chinese cities popping up around Angola like a bad rash. If a middle class does emerge out of the oppressed Angolan masses it is highly unlikely that it would want to live in a high density candy coloured project designed with Chinese automatons in mind. I know Angolans to be different.

In all likelyhood they will be used by the State to house its ever bloating civil service which promises to become the country's one and only middle class. After the political and commercial side shows are over Kilamba will be quietly stuffed full of party officials, security forces  personnel and a sprinkle of civil servants.

Two thousand eight hundred apartments buys a lot of hard core loyalty. And loyalty is what keeps despotic regimes in power for decades ...

Ruben Croxley, Harare, 2012