|Zeitschrift für Stadtforschung|
Vanessa Watson is based in the City and Regional Planning Masters Programme and the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. She is a founder and current co-chair of the Association of African Planning Schools and writes about planning in cities in the global South. She was lead consultant of the 2009 UN−Habitat Global Report on Human Settlements: Planning Sustainable Cities.
Artikel aus Ausgabe 59
urbanize - Int. Festival für urbane Erkundungen
African urban fantasies: dreams or nightmares?
The urban plans for Africa’s larger cities, if they exist at all, are usually to be found in dilapidated condition, perhaps pinned to the wall in a central government ministry or folded into a large technical report. Most often, they reflect a static land use zoning plan covering the older parts of the city and they usually bear little relationship to what is actually on the ground. (UN−Habitat 2009) But this is changing fast. The proposed new urban master plans for many of Africa’s larger cities are now to be found on the websites of international architectural, engineering and property development companies, and they depart even further from African urban reality than did the post-colonial zoning plans. Visions for these future cities reflect images of Dubai, Singapore or Shanghai, although iconic building shapes from elsewhere in the world may be thrown in for good measure. And while the glass tower buildings and landscaped freeways suggest a revived Corbusian modernism, the accompanying texts also promise that these plans will deliver the more fashionable eco-cities and smart cities.
The urban fantasies portrayed on these websites reflect a notion that Africa is »rising« (a term used frequently by both politicians and global investors and following on, perhaps, from earlier assertions that India, China and Asia have been »rising«). Pronouncements from investment analysts such as McKinsey (2012) that Africa is economically the second fastest growing region in the world, that by 2035 it will have a larger workforce than India or China, and that it is set to urbanize faster than these two regions, have no doubt excited the interest of the international property development sector, which can anticipate a steadily rising demand for urban projects and infrastructure.1 In fact, African cities have been referred to as the »last development frontier«,2 anticipating that as urban land and development move to saturation in Asia and the East, Africa’s urban property market will be coming on stream and growing fast.
However, these new urban visions and development plans appear to disregard the fact that at the moment, the bulk of the population in sub-Saharan Africa cities is extremely poor and living in informal settlements. Some of these settlements are on well-located urban land that is also attractive to property developers. Attempts to implement these fantasy plans within existing cities will (and is already) having major exclusionary effects on vulnerable low-income groups through evictions and relocations. Moreover, these development interests bring with them a host of additional demands − for new and particular forms of urban infrastructure and for forms of governance and decision-making that facilitate the realization of property investment interests. Michael Goldman (2011) has termed these processes »speculative urbanism«, drawing on the case of Bangalore where the main business of government has become that of land speculation and the dispossession of those living on land earmarked for private development. (…)
See the Knight Frank reports (www.KnightFrank.com) for an overview of the African property market.