"The Midweek Read": Addressing the Issues of African Urban Cores

By: Deonta Wortham

As noted in a profile of the Ivorian architectural firm the Koffi & Diabaté Group, urban planners across the continent are developing innovative methods to prepare African urban centers for the imminent arrival of migrants that will flood city centers in search of economic opportunity in the coming decades. The World Bank has noted that Africa is urbanizing faster than any region in the world, and the urban population, which presently numbers 320 million, is forecasted to reach 654 million by the year 2030. That a fifty percent increase over the span of fifteen years!
The importance of developing innovative, and sustainable, approaches to ready urban centers for their imminent population “bulge” will be of the utmost importance to both African governments, and even more so to the citizens that will call African urban centers “home.”

In this respect, action must be taken to ensure that both private and public entities are able to jointly advance the development effort in rapidly urbanizing areas.

Take the work that the Koffi & Diabaté Group is undertaking in Abidjan. The architectural firm has literally “branched out” to include a number of enterprises that contribute specifically to the development of the core of the Ivorian nation’s largest city. Ranging from the development of urban apartment complexes meant to ease the burdens of urban life, to the development of an arm within the firm that directly addresses urban water issues.

The Koffi & Diabaté Group has noted that urbanization in African cities detail not only the construction of sound urban built environment, but additionally that urbanization in the “African” context means directly interacting with the urban populace to ensure that their needs are being met in relation to the development of their cities.

The importance in doing so transcends the notion of “city planning” and “architectural prowess” and instead focuses on the nexus of the capacity building and sustained development within urban cores. The work of the Koffi & Diabaté Group, serves as a prime example of the work that needs to be enacted in urban centers across the continent. As the persistent reality of migration of the African into the continent’s urban centers face the African continent, the need to improve standards of living within the continent’s urban centers will continue to be an issue of concern that will, require prolonged action on the part of both private and public African actors.

Addressing the issue of African urbanization will additionally require the development of an African architectural community that is capable of advancing the urbanization effort in a coherent and sustainable manner. Koffi & Diabaté Group’s Managing Director Issa Diabaté notes that across the African continent, and particularly in his native Ivory Coast, there is a severe shortage of architects. This leads to a hampered ability to envision the capability of an improved urban spaces and leads to the continuation of urban centers that are plagued with issues caused by uncurbed population growth.

An Aerial of Abidjan's City Center  Image Credit: Cedric Favero 

An Aerial of Abidjan's City Center  Image Credit: Cedric Favero 

Changing the African urban landscape, in a conclusive sense, will not come over a short span of time, but by slowly ensuring that certain issues are solved will reduce strains on urban centers in the coming decades.

Noting the importance of African urban centers in the economic development of the continent, is of the utmost significance that African governments begin the process of detailing manners in which these urban centers can develop in a sustainable fashion, with the help of architects and urban planners that are capable of maximizing the urban center’s potential.

In the coming years the number of African dwellers will only continue to rise. Looking beyond the year 2030, hundreds of millions of new African urbanites will call the continent cities their home. Action needs to be done to ensure that such work is possible, and the encouragement of work of private firms, similar to that of the Koffi & Diabaté Group, should be vigorously advocated.