Concrete Jungle: Africa’s future is urban08/06/2016
By 2050, there will be 700 million more people who call African cities home. That means an entire New York City needs to be built every six months to house them. African cities are growing at twice the global average and by 2050, 70% of the continent’s population will be urban.
The numbers are staggering. Take just one African city: Lagos, Nigeria’s largest. It is expected to top 25 million people in the next 15 years—that is about three times the size of London today.
Here in Nairobi, where African Speakers + Artists was born, that kind of rapid growth can sometimes feel apocalyptic, like a dystopian indicator of what Africa’s future will look like. Nairobi suffers some of the worst traffic in the world. During recent El Nino induced flooding, cars were swallowed whole in the time it took to stop at the grocery store. Sixty percent of urbanites live in slums and well over half of young people are unemployed. In perhaps the most colorful indication that the center cannot hold, lions have begun wandering the city as their habitat is eroded by urban sprawl.
Despite its challenges, urbanization is still an exciting opportunity to rethink Africa’s future. There is also a strong link between urbanization and economic growth— no country has even reached high-income status without urbanization.
For the second year in a row, Nairobi was named the most intelligent city in Africa,— in part, because Nairobi is leveraging technology to better understand and address its problems.
Around 300,000 Nairobians are using the mobile app ma3route everyday to monitor and report traffic conditions, police behaviour, and accidents. Nairobi’s infamous, freewheeling public transportation made up of an informal network of colorful minibuses is now mapped and listed on Google maps thanks to the Digital Matatus project, a first for any African city.
In the capital of neighboring Ethiopia, Sub-Saharan Africa’s first light rail was just completed which is now bringing 60,000 people who live in the suburbs to the city center for work.
In Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city, the innovative Kigali Conceptual Master Plan envisages a city with biking lanes, commercial and shopping districts, as well as parks and conservation areas.
It is also a commercial boom, by 2030 Africa’s top 18 cities will have a combined spending power of $1.3 trillion.
But what is most significant to us is that cities are centers of cultural production, home to the bold musicians, artists, and speakers challenging the continent’s status quo and defining a bold and cosmopolitan new path for a continent on the move.Read more Read less