African urban fantasies: past lessons and emerging realities


Allan Cain

Publication date: 

Tuesday, 1 April 2014


  • Article


Produced by ACUI

Project theme: 


Written by Allan Cain, director of Development Workshop, this paper describes how the government of Angola has been able to use financing from Chinese credit facilities to build prestige urban housing projects. This paper responds to Vanessa Watson’s article on the ambitious urban development plans that are increasingly common in sub-Saharan Africa as governments seek to make their cities “world class”. This paper discusses the Angolan Government support for the public-privately developed Kilamba city with 20,000 apartments. The apartments were initially too expensive for most of the population, and the state has had to draw further funds from its housing budget for a subsidized rent-to-purchase scheme to make the units affordable for middle-level civil servants. The author argues that an opportunity is being missed to use today’s income from high-priced natural resources and the current easy access to Chinese credit lines and technical expertise to address the very large backlogs in urban upgrading of basic service infrastructure and housing for the poor. The paper also reflects on a previous post-independence period when a number of African new cities were built, leaving some countries with decades of debt and stagnant development. Can errors from the past offer lessons for future African urban development?