10 African cities whose economic importance will triple by 2030

Downtown Dar es Salaam. Image: Daniel Hayduk/AFP/Getty Images.

Global Economy Watch, a monthly report released by PwC, usually leads with stories on US employment figures or an analysis of the Eurozone crisis. In August, though, it turned its attention to a more neglected part of the world, running an article titled, “Africa: Growth is on the horizon but where should you look?”

The audience for such reports are the senior executives (CEOs, CFOs and COOs) referred to as occupants of “the C-suite”. Most of these guys haven’t spent a great deal of time thinking about sub-Saharan Africa’s potential as an investment target. But, it turns out, they should.

Historically, foreign investment has focussed on the “top 3” cities in the region – Johannesburg, Kinshasa, and Lagos. They have the largest populations in the region, and that alone gives them a significant economic footprint, and most multinational companies will now have a presence within them.

But PwC predicts that, over the next 15 years, most of the growth will come from the “next 10” biggest cities in Sub-Saharan Africa. These include Nairobi (Kenya), Abidjan (Cote D’Ivoire), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) and Dakar (Senegal). Here are the full 10, mapped:  

There are several reasons why PwC have focused on these 10. First, there’s demographics. By 2030, the region’s population will have overtaken every continent but Asia, and Africa will account for around a third of the world’s population. By 2040, PwC predicts, the continent will have the biggest labour force in the world (the result, one assumes, of a youthful population). 

UN predictions suggest that, thanks to the process of urbanisation, the “next 10” cities will grow even faster than the region as a whole: most of these cities will double in size by 2030. The populations in Dar es Salaam and Luanda will both rise to around 10m by 2030, putting them on a par with Paris or London.

Add to that the standard processes of growth, and the fact that many of these countries are sitting on oil and gas reserves, and the economic importance of these cities is going to soar. In all, the IMF predicts, the size of their combined economy will triple by 2030, rising by about $140bn in total.


There are, of course, obstacles to this type of swift development. One major difficulty is overpopulation, and the accompanying shortfall in infrastructure and resources.  In Nigeria, which contains three of these top 13 cities, only 20 per cent of the roads are paved (in the UK, it’s, er, 100 per cent). All 10 cities have low levels of literacy, and schools that aren’t good enough to plug the gap.

Many of the countries’ governments also lack the legal infrastructure required to manage bigger, more developed economies. The path to business deals in some countries is still occasionally smoothed by bribery: no less a figure than Albert Stanley, one time CEO of Halliburton, was jailed after paying officials bribes to secure a natural gas contract in Nigeria.

The motivations of potential investors may cause problems of their own. As an explanation for why Africa will become increasingly attractive, PwC points to the expectation that labour costs in Asia are going to soar. There’s a danger that the firms most likely to invest in the region will be those seeking cheap labour and ways to cut corners.

PwC advises its C-suite readers to invest in these cities. But it wants them to support infrastructure, (by building roads, say); and to pay for skills development programmes for the cities’ rapidly expanding workforces. Whether they’ll listen is another question.

 
 
 
 

Jane Jacobs and Le Corbusier would agree on one thing: we need more social housing

Unite d’Habitation, Marseille. Image: Iantomferry/Wikimedia Commons.

Much has been written in CityMetric and beyond about the urban planning debates of the 1950s and ‘60s, that came to be characterised as a battle between master-planning and preservation. One side of the debate was personified by the father of modernist architecture, Le Corbusier, whilst the counter-argument was advanced by writer and journalist Jane Jacobs.

But when it comes to London’s housing crisis, aren’t there a few things that these two would actually agree on?

Jane Jacobs’ writing about the organic nature of self-organising communities, demonstrated, in her words, by the “intricate sidewalk ballet” of inner city neighbourhoods, should be required reading for anyone interested in how cities function. But today, Jacobs is increasingly invoked in attempts to oppose new developments of any kind. Her role in conceiving Manhattan’s West Village Houses, a low cost rented housing scheme built through New York State’s Mitchell-Lama Program, is unfortunately much less well known. It’s been suggested that if Jacobs were around today, she’d be working with New York’s housing activists. When her seminal work The Death and Life of Great American Cities was written, there were almost 2 million rent-controlled or rent-stabilised apartments in New York City; nowadays, there are fewer than half that number.

Le Corbusier, on the other hand, is too often blamed for drab high-rise blocks. But regardless of how well his followers across Europe interpreted his ideas, Le Corbusier’s vision for cities was about high quality residential blocks that also contained shops and leisure amenities and were surrounded by parkland – the original mixed use development if you like. His most famous building, Marseille’s Unite d’Habitation, consisted of 337 apartments with views of the mountains and the sea together with shops, a restaurant and a nursery school. The building was originally intended to be public housing, but the French government eventually sold off the flats to recoup costs. Alton West Estate in Roehampton and Park Hill in Sheffield are just some of the examples of Le Corbusier’s influence on the design of post-war council housing here in the UK.

Building homes for a serious business in post-war Britain. Under Attlee’s 1945 Labour Government, 700,000 new council homes were completed. In 1952, the largest architectural practice in the World was at London County Council, with 1,577 staff including 350 professional architects and trainees. These were the days of consensus, and very quickly Tory governments were actually competing with Labour governments about who could built the most council homes.

Some of the council homes built post-war have stood the test of time better than others. But what’s not in doubt is that building council homes on such a scale immeasurably changed the lives of so many families in desperate need of a decent, secure and affordable home. And so many of the post-war modernist high-rise blocks so despised by Jacobs quickly took on the organic self-organising traits that she held in such high regard and have become some of the most enduring and closely-knit communities in London.

Fast forward to 2019 and Right To Buy continues to decimate council housing stock, but perversely home ownership seems more out of reach than ever for so many. An entire generation is being forced to embrace long term private ting in a country that has some weakest protections for private tenants in Europe. Meanwhile, government spending on building new homes fell from £11.4bn in 2009 to just £5.3bn in 2015 – from 0.7 per cent to 0.2 per cent of GDP – and since then, the housing minister’s desk has been occupied by no fewer than six people.


So what would a comprehensive drive for new council and social housing on the scale of the 1945 government’s efforts look like in 2019?

Lubetkin, the architect responsible for Islington’s Spa Green Estate and Bevin Court, summed up the spirit of post-war council home building with his maxim that “nothing is too good for ordinary people”. It’s a vision that we’re trying to recreate through our own council home building programme in Islington.

One of the best opportunities for small council home building schemes is to expand upon existing communities. The vast majority of Islington’s new council housing takes the form of infill, construction on existing estates; in unloved spaces, in old garages, and in old undercrofts. These projects often involve landscaping and new amenities to enhance rather than reinvent local communities. We have built community centres and even rebuilt a library as part of council housing schemes. One Tenants’ and Residents’ Association had an idea for a new specialist over 55s block for the older residents of the estate who wanted to stay in their community.

But there’s a place for large-scale place making as well. When the Ministry of Justice closed Holloway Prison and announced that the site would be sold, Islington Council published a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) on the site. We had one aim – to send a clear signal to the market that anyone who was looking at buying the site needed to be aware of their planning obligations. Most importantly, any development on the site needed to include at least 50 per cent genuinely affordable homes. The speculation around the site came to an end on 8 March this year when Peabody Housing Association announced that it had bought it. It has committed to going well above and beyond our planning requirements, by making 600 out of a total 1000 homes genuinely affordable homes, including 420 homes for social rent. We need to see more detail on what they are proposing but this is potentially brilliant for the borough. A local grassroots group, Community Plan for Holloway, have been instrumental in ensuring that the community’s voice is heard since the site was sold.

To recreate the scale of the massive post-war council home building programmes would require a Jane Jacobs inspired level of community activism combined with the architectural idealism of Le Corbusier. But it would also need the political will from central government to help local authorities get council housing built. And that, sadly, feels as far away as ever.

Diarmaid Ward is a Labour councillor and the executive member for housing & development at the London Borough of Islington.