Why Africa’s Booming Cities Need More Autonomy in Urban Planning

City Lab
Sam Sturgis March 3, 2015

The continent is embarking on an urban revolution, and African cities are right to want a seat at the table.

Why Africa's Booming Cities Need More Autonomy in Urban Planning

Bill Freund, an academic and author of The African City, isn’t naive. He knows there’s pessimism about his area of expertise. “For most writers taking on the city as a general premise, Africa hardly features,” Freund wrote in 2012[paywall]. “If anything, African cities are sweepingly dismissed as dystopian.”

Still, African cities today are pursuing complex and exciting urban planning projects. Need proof? Look no further than a recent financing program in Dakar, Senegal.

As first reported by Citiscope, Dakar was ready to roll out its first municipal bond two weeks ago. It would have been a watershed moment for the continent. No city outside of South Africa—vastly developed and wealthy compared to its peers—had ever issued a municipal bond before. According to the article, the bond was going to fund a new market hall, where street vendors could sell their goods in a more formal exchange. The benefits for Dakar were to be two-fold: The project would introduce new regulations into a largely informal commercial sector while generating new tax revenue along the way. The symbolism of the bond was an added bonus, showing a booming African city tackling needed infrastructure growth head on.

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