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Our African City – a dialogue to be launched at IMESA

Envisioning an African City

Envisioning an African city

28 September 2015 - Aurecon, in partnership with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), will be launching Our African City at the Institute of Municipal Engineering Southern Africa (IMESA) conference in Cape Town in October 2015.  

Our African City is a dialogue on inclusive transformation that intends to craft a vision of what African cities should look like. It focuses on bringing together leading expertise across the financial, political, technical and social spheres to collaborate in developing new thinking and solutions.

Why is there a need?

Africa’s cities continue to grow at an unprecedented rate and the United Nations has estimated that the nearly 80% urbanisation rate expected by 2050 will see 1.26 billion people living in African cities – more than the entire population of the continent today.  Unfortunately, urbanisation in our cities continues to lead to informal settlements and unplanned urban sprawl. Historic segregation in countries like South Africa has become more difficult to reverse and spatial patterns that create lack of access to services and opportunities further entrenches poverty, unemployment and inequality.

A recent United Nations Human Settlements Programme report indicated that modernist planning in Africa has its roots in outdated colonial planning which was implemented across Africa towards the end of the 19th Century. British town and country planning was implemented in Southern and West Africa, French planning was implemented in West and Central Africa and Portuguese planning in their colonies. These planning systems were used to control the development of settlements and accommodate cheap labour in these colonial towns. 

Planning in the post-independence period was largely influenced by ideas from the United Kingdom (Garden Cities) and the United States (neighbourhood concept and freeway development). Future planning continued to be based on the assumption that future land uses could be accurately predicted and that it would be formal and modern. This assumption is in stark contrast to the realities of Africa which is marked by rapid urbanisation, informality, inadequate infrastructure and polarised development.

How locally relevant planning can be implemented

Aurecon’s Market Director for Government and Transport, Abbas Jamie, says that the concept of Our African City stemmed from a question that his team started to ask each other: What does a future African city look like?

“Globally, there’s a great deal of innovation surrounding futuristic city planning. While many of these concepts, technologies and ideas are novel and relevant, they aren’t always implemented appropriately in Africa. It’s time that Africa takes ownership for developing, planning and creating the cities that meet the needs of Africans today and in the future,” says Jamie.

A future based on African ideals, culture and tradition

Based on the history of the continent we need to develop a framework for what a future African city should be from an African perspective.  A future based on African ideals, African culture and African traditions. Our societies operate differently and we use public spaces differently. The Our African City dialogue is about understanding what our citizens want to see and experience in their cities. Understanding the needs of our people will help us create truly African cities.

Follow the #OurAfricanCity hashtag on Twitter to stay on top of developments.

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