Monday, March 20, 2017

The story of African cities

A woman attempts to cross a street in Dar es

A woman attempts to cross a street in Dar es Salaam as heavy rains floods the capital. Poor infrastructure is a big challenge to African cities. PHOTO | AFP 

Mali. Anarchic architecture, unchecked pollution and high costs of living are the lot of African city dwellers, experts warn, as living standards fail to keep pace with rapid urban growth on the continent.

The Bamako Forum, a pan-African think tank, recently considered the phenomenon of African urbanisation against the backdrop of a city living the results of rural flight clashing with poor urban planning.

At 1.8 million inhabitants Bamako is far from Africa’s largest city. But its 5.5 per cent growth rate is the fastest on the continent, outstripping that of established African megalopolises like Cairo, Kinshasa or Lagos.

One billion Africans will live in a city by 2040, according to World Bank estimates, compared with almost half a billion today.

“Such growth has never been seen globally, and probably never will be again,” said Somik Vinay Lall, the bank’s top urbanisation expert, speaking at the forum.

Visitors to Bamako’s dusty streets don’t have long before they chance upon what residents have nicknamed Lafiabougou Hill, a pile of stinking rubbish that at one point loomed 20 metres (66 feet) tall in the city centre.

Lacking fuel to transport the trash to depots on the city’s edges, Lafiabougou Hill has become a pungent reminder of the municipality’s inability to provide basic services to its rapidly expanding population.

“We have protested, burnt tyres, blocked off roads, because this affects the health of the people living in this area,” said Djiri Nimaga, head of a local youth group that held protests last year aimed at rousing action from the authorities in the ACI 2000 commercial district. Until now Lafiabougou has not killed anyone directly, but at least 113 people were killed in a giant landslide at Ethiopia’s largest rubbish dump last weekend, including several children.