Building Africa’s 10 Cities of

Building Africa’s 10 Cities of the Future (part II)

The real success of the Africa’s shining new cities will be in demonstrating the value of high-density, sustainable patterns of land use, such that they are widely implemented in Africa’s burgeoning metropolises (Part II)

Building Africa’s 10 Cities of

Read part I in this series

6. Westown, Eastown | Cairo, Egypt



Cairo, Africa’s first modern mega-city, now houses 10 million Cairenes; this number is projected to grow to as many people as currently live in Tanzania (about 38 million) by 2050. To house this very modern population density in such an ancient city, the Egyptian state has traditionally resorted to very limited, Modernist planning borrowed from the lexicon of Western cities: elevated highways, car-centred transport planning, and urban high-rise blocks built largely ad-hoc by residents themselves. The result has been a city in which orderly expansion is becoming impossible, and in which traffic congestion and omnipresent air pollution present a poor welcome to investors and the business community.

The Cairene elite have responded by building massive new towns and satellite cities in the desert outside the densely-inhabited Nile Delta. These were initially intended to become mixed-income communities, but the middle classes have colonised them entirely, grateful to leave behind a teeming and smoggy city but often retaining an apartment there for business use. Eastown and Westown are two of the largest of these planned communities, but even the smaller ones easily attain 400 000 inhabitants – larger than many African capitals.

However, these oases comes at a heavy price, because they are not, in fact, real oases – just plain desert. The diversion of drinking and landscaping water to these cities of privilege, which have been built without any meaningful public participation, are an act of will by an authoritarian state; but if that is the price of conducting business at an international standard in Cairo, city residents seem prepared to pay it.

Projected Population: 25 000 (Eastown), 60 000 (Westown)
Size: 112 hectares(Eastown), 122 hectares (Westown)
Projected Cost: EGP 10 Billion (Eastown), EGP 15 Billion (Westown)
Backers: SODIC Egypt
Status: currently under construction

7. Cidade de Kilamba | Luanda, Angola


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Kilamba New City” is a large housing development 30 km from Luanda, the capital city of Angola. It is being built by the China International Trust and Investment Corporation and is largely empty. Kilamba was designed to accommodate 500,000 people and includes 750 eight-storey apartment blocks, over 100 commercial premises and a dozen schools.

The cost is reported as US$3.5 billion, financed by a Chinese credit line and repaid by the Angolan government with oil. As of July 2012, the buildings were largely complete but still unoccupied. Only 220 apartments had been sold out of the first release of 2,800. Sales have been slow because of the difficulty in obtaining mortgage loans.

One school is in operation, but children are bussed in from other areas as there are none living nearby. The government plans to use some of the residential blocks as social housing. Although Kilamba contributes to meeting the election pledge made by President Jose Eduardo dos Santos in 2008 to build a million new homes in four years, Angola does not have a large middle class able to buy such homes.

The city, long famous as a white elephant, is starting to fill up in the wake of legislative changes that make it easier for Angolans to finance home ownership; however, for many, the city is still an example of the kind of top-down planning that explains Angola’s failure to convert its oil wealth into the guarantee of a minimum level of basic services for its people.

Projected Population: 200 000 (built), 15 000 (currently occupied; this number grows weekly)
Size: 880 hectares
Projected Cost: rumoured to approach USD 3.5 billion
Backers: Imobiliaria Sonangol (Angola’s state-owned oil utility), Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (as well as other Chinese contractors)
Status: built, still mostly empty, now filling up

8. La Cité du Fleuve | Kinshasa, DRC

Kin Cite du Fleuve'09 design (


La Cité du Fleuve is an exclusive development situated on two islands reclaimed from sandbanks and swamp in the Congo River, adjacent to Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The main island will be mixed-use, while the smaller island will house residential villas. The appeal of Cité du Fleuve may seem obvious – a salubrious environment close to the water, with controlled access via a single bridge – and yet, the clue of the most compelling aspect of this land-reclamation project lies in a typically Congolese detail in the sales literature: ‘indisputable land title’. That is, because the land is all reclaimed from water, buyers here rest assured that they will never have to fend off challenges to the title deed for their investment. Because of the chaos of the DRC’s deeds registry after years of civil war, the expense, hassle and risk of disputed ownership is a part of landownership in the DRC. Residents of la Cité, however, have one less thing to worry about, and a New Urbanist-inspired environment to enjoy, highly segregated from the poverty of the rest of Kinshasa.

Projected Population: Unspecified
Size: 375 hectares of reclaimed land
Projected Cost: rumoured to approach USD 1 billion
Backers: Robert Choudury
Status: land reclamation underway

9. Appolonia and King City | Accra, Ghana

Appolonia and King City represent yet another attempt to create a sanitised, international-standard gated community that benefits from proximity to a major, and fast-growing, African capital city without expecting residents to share in any of the burdens of life in that city.

This time, the city is Accra, burgeoning in growth on the Accra-Lagos axis, and the twin new towns are nicknamed the ‘City of Light’ and King City. They are conceived as self-contained playgrounds for the middle class where all possible amenities and services are provided without the need to enter Accra, but in fairness to the developers, environments such as this one in most cases merely meet the minimum that a certain class of investor or business person expects as standard from international or South African cities.

The ability to offer a quality of life at this standard is thus far from frivolous: it strengthens the investment case for these cities because it means that investors’ families can join them in-country. Appolonia and King City will also likely constitute a premier shopping and commercial node for Accra, and, if this development enhances class distinction and economic segregation, it is at best mitigated by a planned light-industrial park in the precinct. The promise of industrial-level jobs within a new town is a rare feature not seen in any of our other Future Cities, and could mean that semi-skilled and unskilled workers have a valued and essential role in the new towns.

The land parcel currently earmarked for development as Appolonia


Appolonia: artists’ impression of a suburban residential quarter
King City proposed landmark
King City proposed pedestrian street

Projected Population: 160 000 (divided evenly between both sites)
Size:  1,000 hectares (King City), 800 hectares (Appolonia)
Projected Cost: USD 600 million
Backers: Renaissance Group in partnership with two traditional authorities in Ghana
Status: all baseline studies, master plans and detailed designs have been completed and approved; basic infrastructure work in Appolonia is expected to begin in the third quarter of 2013

10. Umhlanga Ridge | Durban, South Africa

Umhlanga Ridge, in the sprawling Greater Durban agglomeration, stands apart for its orthodox New Urbanist design, that valorises walking and cycling as well as incidental interactions between residents as the ‘glue’ of a successful urban community


Umhlanga Ridge aerial view

Just 20 kilometres north of Durban, the city’s middle-class city centre sits on a ridge facing the sea. In common with Jo’burg and, to a lesser extent, Cape Town, Durban has seen plunging property values in its historic centre manifest in a wholesale move of the business elite to a new, more highly controlled, privately-developed urban core to the north. Umhlanga, powered by the centrifugal force of the massive Gateway mall, has established itself as a meaningful rival to Durban’s CBD in middle-class minds and habits.

Projected Population: 3 000 residential units, 633 000 m² of commercial and mixed-use space
Size:  24 hectares (residential), 118 hectares (commercial & mixed-use)
Projected Cost: Civils infrastructure cost: R200 million to date
Backers:  Tongaat Hulett
Status: substantially built; in-fill development underway

Read more about visionary development in Africa: 

MICE in the city: assessing the readiness of SA’s major cities (Part I: Cape Town)

Africa’s Greenest Hotel opens at Cape Town International Airport

Ten ways South African architects are building the future