African Megac­ity Makeovers Tackle Ris­ing Pop­u­la­tions

Southern Innovator - - CITIES & URBANIZATION -

Nige­ria’s largest, busiest and most con­gested city, La­gos, has long had a rep­u­ta­tion for dy­namism mixed with chaos. Its sprawl­ing slums and bal­loon­ing pop­u­la­tion have for decades stretched gov­ern­ments’ abil­ity to pro­vide ser­vices.

The 2006 cen­sus placed the city’s pop­u­la­tion at close to 8 mil­lion, mak­ing it the most pop­u­lous city in the coun­try and the sec­ond-largest in Africa af­ter Cairo. One forecast saw the pop­u­la­tion reach­ing 23 mil­lion by 2015. La­gos was called the fastest-grow­ing city in Africa by Un-habi­tat (2008). The city is Nige­ria’s eco­nomic and fi­nan­cial hub and crit­i­cal to the coun­try’s fu­ture.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port by the In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute for En­vi­ron­ment and De­vel­op­ment, Africa now has a larger ur­ban pop­u­la­tion than North Amer­ica and 25 of the world’s fastest-grow­ing big cities. Com­ing to grips with ur­ban de­vel­op­ment will be crit­i­cal for the fu­ture of the con­ti­nent and the well-be­ing of its peo­ple.

In West Africa, an OECD study found that the area stretch­ing along the Gulf of Guinea in the At­lantic Ocean had a net­work of 300 cities larger than 100,000 peo­ple and the great­est num­ber of ur­ban poor on the planet. It is a com­mon prob­lem across the South as fast-grow­ing city pop­u­la­tions surge past the abil­ity of in­sti­tu­tions and in­fra­struc­ture to cope.

Hebel be­lieves turn­ing lo­cal would cut build­ing costs by a third and save on costly im­ports

It is a de­vel­op­ment chal­lenge that ur­gently needs so­lu­tions. In La­gos, the Olu­wole dis­trict, for­merly a crime-plagued slum, has been trans­formed into a new mar­ket­place, and the plan is to fol­low this with new of­fices, homes and shops. The brain­child of the La­gos State Gover­nor, Ba­batunde Fashola, re­de­vel­op­ment of the 20,000-square-me­tre site is part of his multi-stage plan to bring more or­der to the chaos thatis­dai­lylifein­la­gos.there­are­al­soam­bi­tious­plansafoot to build new roads and bridges. The area’s traf­fic con­ges­tion is also be­ing tar­geted for so­lu­tions. The for­mer slum is now re­branded as the Olu­wole Ur­ban Mar­ket and Mul­ti­func­tional City Cen­tre and is be­ing re­de­vel­oped in part­ner­ship with the pri­vate sec­tor. The re­de­vel­oped slum is part of the much larger La­gos Is­land Cen­tral Busi­ness Dis­trict (CBD) Re­vi­tal­iza­tion/ Ma­rina City Pro­ject, a five-year pro­ject jointly ex­e­cuted by the La­gos gov­ern­ment and pri­vate-sec­tor play­ers. This pro­ject has al­ready be­gun with the re­design­ing and re­con­struc­tion of roads and in­fra­struc­ture within the CBD and the ad­join­ing axes.

Another fast-grow­ing African city is Ad­dis Ababa. The cap­i­tal of the East African coun­try of Ethiopia, it has been in the grips of a build­ing boom for the past few years but much of this build­ing has been un­planned and, to many, is ugly. The cur­rent build­ing boom’s ar­chi­tec­tural legacy has been crit­i­cized for leav­ing build­ings that are too hot for the cli­mate and re­quire ex­pen­sive air con­di­tion­ing sys­tems. They also use im­ported ce­ment and steel and are not earth­quake-proof.

Ad­dis Ababa was founded in 1886 by Em­peror Mene­lik II. It is now host to the African Union and it is this im­por­tant role that has ar­chi­tects ad­vo­cat­ing for a new ap­proach to the city’s de­vel­op­ment.

Ad­dis is home to some of the high­est-den­sity ur­ban slums in the world, ac­cord­ing to the UN. Some es­ti­mates place the pop­u­la­tion of the city at 4.6 mil­lion, and that could dou­ble by 2020. But its pat­tern is un­usual for an African city. Dirk Hebel of Ad­dis Ababa’s ar­chi­tec­ture

school told The Economist that it de­fies the usual pat­tern of rich cen­tre and poor pe­riph­ery. In­stead, be­cause crime is low and the rich seem to tol­er­ate the poor liv­ing among them, the slums are jammed be­tween of­fice build­ings and flats in the wealthy parts of the city. Ar­chi­tects favour smaller build­ings that stay true to lo­cal stone and tra­di­tional gut­ter­ing to col­lect the rain. Hebel be­lieves turn­ing lo­cal would cut build­ing costs by a third and save on costly im­ports. The ar­chi­tec­ture school has re­ceived fund­ing from a tech­ni­cal in­sti­tute in Zurich, Switzer­land, called ETH to help de­velop new ideas.

Hebel and ETH’S head, Marc An­gelil, have writ­ten a book pro­fil­ing the ar­chi­tec­tural styles of the city.

The city is plagued – like so many in the South – by pol­lu­tion and traf­fic grid­lock. Growth is pro­jected to be so large by 2050 that the coun­try would need 20 new cities of 5 mil­lion peo­ple each to ac­com­mo­date it (UN). This is an epic chal­lenge re­quir­ing imag­i­na­tive think­ing and new ways. – (Novem­ber 2010)

A typ­i­cal mar­ket in La­gos, Nige­ria.

La­gos State Gover­nor, Ba­batunde Fashola.

How the re­de­vel­oped mar­ket looks.

The ar­chi­tect’s vi­sion for the new mar­ket in La­gos, Nige­ria.

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