Archives for category: Kenya

Creating a mashup of aerial images of African cities is something I’ve wanted to do for a while now and today I finally had a minute to put the satellite images together. Here’s the link: Afrian_metropolises. I downloaded all of the images from Google Earth Pro at the same size and scale (from 34.7 miles). The top row shows six of West Africa’s largest cities, the middle row shows East and Central African cities, and the bottom shows southern Africa plus New York and Boston for familiar comparisons (for me at least). A few striking first glance observations include the size of the South African giants Johannesburg and Cape Town, and Nigeria’s neighboring megalopolises Lagos and Ibadan (especially these two Nigerian cities in comparison to Kano, which recent (politically motivated) censuses have given population figures equal to Lagos. This is not to say geographic size of a city is determinant of its population, but the aerial difference between these three cities is readily apparent). Also interesting to note is how obvious (but obviously not a scientific method) it is to tell how paved a city is or is not based on where the city lies on the scale between brown (dirt) and grey (asphalt). There’s a limit to how useful images/maps like this actually are, but it’s fun to look at and helpful to have a for developing a mental imprint of the relative geographic sizes and shapes of African cities. 


(Mark Duerksen 2014)


China’s national news agency is quietly buying up stake (and influence) in African news outlets. What better way to win hearts and minds in the 21st century? This says a lot: “Its content, however, is often simplistic and condescending. It produced a documentary, for example, called Glamorous Kenya that portrayed the country as “a land of mystery” and “kingdom of animals.” It gives consistently glowing coverage of Chinese trade and aid in Africa, including frequent stories about the two dozen Confucius Institutes that provide Chinese language training across Africa.”


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Horrifying article, image, and statistic:  Africa has 2 percent of the world’s registered vehicles…but 16 percent of the world’s traffic related deaths. And even to begin addressing this??–road infrastructure, behind the wheel training, highway patrolling, breathalyzer testing, helmets, working seat belts, vehicle maintenance and inspection are all grossly lacking. I think I’d rather be stuck in a day long traffic jam in Lagos than speeding through the Kenyan countryside.


Image source (photograph:  Dai Kurokawa/European Pressphoto Agency)

When the old isn’t working or is just too cumbersome to overhaul….simply build a brand new city from scratch! At least that’s what these projects intend to do. Most of these future cities are in the initial/early periods of funding/construction but they will be fascinating to follow as they begin opening for business. They’re all located next to some of the continent’s largest decaying/overcrowded urban areas–what will become of those when these glitzy new international business orientated centers are fully functional? I can imagine a mass rush of people pouring towards the promises of these new cities (if only as day commuters since they’ll likely be exorbitantly expensive places to live like Victoria Island in Lagos in currently), abandoning the rusting infrastructure and informally organized cities just miles away. Will there be an influx control mechanism built into these new centers? A passcard system? We know how well planned capitals like Dodoma and Abuja have played out in Africa; will an urban area backed by international corporate investment lead to different results? Part two coming soon.  Eko Atlantic project constructed on man-made sandbar in the harbor of Lagos:


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