As readers of African Business over the past 18 months will be aware, several ambitious urban development projects are being developed in West and East Africa. Advertised as new cities, but in reality better described as new suburbs, Eko Atlantic and Tatu City are taking shape in Lagos and Nairobi respectively. Providing combined residential, business and leisure facilities in a single area, they are designed to replicate the best in urban planning from the industrialised world.
In both cases, the developers aim to provide the water, power and transport infrastructure required to support construction projects undertaken by different private sector developers. Indeed, Tatu City, which will provide homes for 62,000 people, will be developed over a long period in 10 phases and its continued construction will rely upon investor and customer confidence. Water and wastewater pipes, power lines, telecommunications links and road access to the city centre and airport are all to be provided from the start, while a light rail system is planned in the longer term.
Project developers Renaissance Capital states that Tatu City will be up to three times of the geographic size of central Nairobi and about the same size as Johannesburg’s central business district. The managing director of Renaissance Capital, Arnold Meyer, commented: “The confines of the city are such that there are no large pieces of land that the city can grow into. Wherever we look, capitals and cities are so constrained that they just cannot cater for the growth. Investors are quickly coming to the realisation that cities are going to be the main drivers of growth in Africa. Cities drive innovation, creativity.” The same company has bought land in other African countries, including Ghana and Zambia, with similar urban developments in mind.
Such schemes have attracted claims that the city fathers in Nairobi and Lagos have given up on upgrading the core urban environment and are instead seeking to construct an exclusive enclave for the wealthy elite.
Others contend that these new utopian visions of fountains, open spaces and European style boulevards are merely the next generation of the compound style developments that originally emerged in South Africa and which have gradually spread across the continent.
In such cases, luxury homes are enclosed by the high walls, electric fences and armed guards typical of Johannesburg. Both the developers and the governments involved deny that this will be the case in Tatu City and Eko Atlantic but it is hard to escape the feeling that the general populace will be denied free access to such areas. Governments are increasingly recognising that such developments must be adequately integrated into the existing urban landscape.
The government of Tanzania and the China Railway Construction Engineering Group (CRJE) have put pen to paper on a $138m contract to build a 4km road bridge between central Dar es Salaam and Kigamboni Peninsula, which is expected to become a central urban development over the next few years.
The bridge, which will have a height of 55 metres to allow large vessels to enter the port of Dar es Salaam, is expected to open in February 2015. Funding has been provided by the central government and the National Social Security Fund (NSSF). Full details of the Kigamboni plans are expected to be published soon.