African urban fantasies: dreams or nightmares?


Vanessa Watson

Publication date: 

Friday, 6 December 2013


  • Article


Produced by ACUI

Project theme: 


Labelled as the “last frontier” for international property development, sub-Saharan Africa’s larger cities are currently being revisioned in the image of cities such as Dubai, Shanghai and Singapore, which claim top positions in the world-class city leagues. Draped in the rhetoric of “smart cities” and “eco-cities”, these plans promise to modernize African cities and turn them into gateways for international investors and showpieces for ambitious politicians. Yet the reality in all of these cities stands in stark contrast to the glass-box towers, manicured lawns and water features on developers’ and architects’ websites. With the majority of urban populations living in deep poverty and with minimal urban services, the most likely outcome of these fantasy plans is a steady worsening of the marginalization and inequalities that already beset these cities.