Sub-Saharan Africa » General Document For The Region

Are we accountable for Slums? Paradigm Shift required.
  Slums upgrade and metropolitan structure
  We are experiencing for the first time in history a metropolitan explosion phenomenon. Today 600 metropolises around the world have reached the 1 million inhabitants range. Overwhelming figures if compared with historic cities like Julius Cesar’s Rome with 1 million inhabitants, Victoria’s London with only 600.000 or the Beijing of the Ming Dynasty with 700.000 thousand.

Many of these metropolises are growing at 5% annual rates. That means doubling the size in 14 years. Governments do not know how to cope. They try to keep people back in rural areas. It does not work. So they deny the phenomenon, or look elsewhere. The result is uncontrolled development, the expansion of slums.

Are we accountable for those slums? We are as far as we do not provide the means for a rational organized development. That structure can be provided. Europe experienced a similar urban explosion in the 19 C. as effect of industrial revolution and the consequent flow of population to cities. The 19 C. was able to address the issue by implementing the urban grid. Good examples are New York (1811) and Barcelona (1860).

We have solutions at a metropolitan scale that can be implemented. The 4 main models of metropolitan planning in the 20 C. (Vienna 1912, South Germany 1933, Berlin 1967 and Madrid 1996) provide the mechanisms to implement large-scale developments. For instance the Metro-Matrix model of Madrid, a matrix grid-like system that expands to the next metropolitan scale the historical reticular urban development system inherited from the Greeks or the Chinese.

It does apply to Metropolises, as they are such because of the location advantage of most of them at the crossroads of two ecosystems. ‘Featureless plain’ Central Place Theory (Walter Christaller) is not applicable, nor the Orbital Theory (Otto Wagner) as the border between two ecosystems is defined by a very strong linear directionality.

The World Bank is applying this model actually in Nairobi and initiating it in Addis Ababa. It could work in many other places in Africa like Kigali, Dar es Salaam, Monrovia, Kampala, Accra, Cairo or Tunis. Elsewhere as well, whenever there is a metropolis with a strong directionality: Santiago de Chile, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Bogota, Cali, Medellin, Caribe, Santo Domingo, Jamaica, Guatemala, Mexico DF to mention just LAC. East Europe and Asia can hold similar number of examples. (see: Provides a framework for rapid growth: ‘rights of way’ within an incrementalist approach to both infrastructures and buildings. This reflects historical good practices as with the Romans, the Jefferson American Grid or Latin America. No finance is needed, just collective intelligence of good Governance.

With these solutions available, are we accountable for slums?
Africa Urban Acupuncture: Metro-Matrix Chart
  Urban Acupuncture Metropolitan Metro-Matrix Mental Map Africa
  African Cities are growing very fast. The incapacity of Governments to handle the situation in the absence of a model paradigm to organize the territory of Metropolises is having for effect the development of slums in a moss metastasis.
The phenomenon is going to continue for at least 30 years. The time a 30% urban society grows to a 70% one.

Upgrading slums costs from 3 to 9 times more than doing it right form scratch. Metro-Matrix can provide for that traditional approach to do it right from the beginning and allocate the right land in the right places. With limited resources and the inability to do it right now, it is obvious getting the funds to upgrade will take 9 times more. If we don’t do it right in the next 30 years we are going to leave an inheritance that will take 300 years to bring the situation to an acceptable urban quality environment.