Africa: Africa's Urban Planning Conundrum


By Vanessa Watson

Foreign-born development fantasies will make African cities a nightmare

African cities have become the world's next property investment frontier in the post-2008 economic climate. International architects and property developers are scrambling to sell fantastical visions of new satellite cities, or in some cases entire city makeovers, to short-sighted governments.

The designs for some of Africa's largest cities, dubbed "world-class cities", "smart cities" and "eco cities", are accompanied by artistic renderings suggesting visions of Dubai, Singapore or Shanghai. For instance, the plans by US-based Oz Architecture for Rwanda's capital, Kigali, ignore the city's large informal urban population.

A proposed new satellite city near Nairobi, Kenya, designed by New York-based SHoP Architects, promises a modernised and sanitised living environment for the middle classes.

These smaller, mostly independent urban areas are far removed from the squalor and congestion of existing cities. Hope City, just east of Accra, Ghana's capital, designed by Italian architect Paulo Brescia, is no different.