Years back Ebenezer Howard proposed a ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“Garden CityÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ in his famous text ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“Garden Cities of TomorrowÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢. The world famous urbanist envisioned self-reliant and independent cities that are spacious and organized; have limited/controlled populace and unified land ownership. Le Corbusier later analyzed the challenges faced by increased urbanization in Europe and came up with his version of a “Contemporary City” for three million inhabitants.
In 1800 only 2% of the global population lived in urban areas. The industrial revolution witnessed the start of modern urbanization and this continued such that today up to 75% of the population in developed countries is now urban.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Although only 40% of AfricaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s population lives in urban centres, an urban growth rate of 4.87% defines it as the region with the highest rate of urbanization.
Founded on colonial origins, the design and development of African cities has traditionally followed a top – bottom approach, where a central body of municipal authorities and planners control development and service provision. However, mismanagement, corruption and limited financial ability have led to the rapid deterioration of many cities. Continuous urban growth coupled with poor development of legislative and administrative procedures has resulted in many cities growing without emphasis on environmental sustainability, implementation of development plans, and sustained urban growth.
With a growing middle class, a new phenomenon is emerging in some African cities where private developers Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â (and occasionally the public sector) are proposing the construction of new ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“private cities.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ The developers envision in these cities the Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â efficient provision of services, availability of efficient and well maintained infrastructure as well as adequate security.
While some argue that the development of new towns and urban centres is the only way forward for developing countries, there are many lessons to be learnt from those who have tried and failed or succeeded to varying degrees.
Several parts of the world have experienced the phenomenon of private cities with various results. One of the most successful ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“private citiesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ is Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Jamshedpur in India. It was the vision of Jamshedji Nusserwanji Tata and was developed by Tata Steel Company as an industrial town. All facilities are managed by Jamshedpur Utility and Services Company Limited (JUSCO) much to the satisfaction of the residents. However, the areas around the town not managed by JUSCO experience poor roads, power cuts and water shortage.
Another new upcoming private city in India is Jaypee Green Sports City. This is a 2,500 acre town that will be distinguished by international standard sports facilities for cricket, formula one racing, hockey and others. It will also have residential, commercial and educational functions. Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
The United States also has some positive experience with private cities, most notably Reston, Va., and Irvine, Ca. Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Both have been listed as among the best places to live in the country.
Not all parts of the world have had positive experiences with private cities or purpose built cities. China has had to re-think some of her urbanization model after putting up cities like Kangbashi in the Ordos region or the Yujiapu financial district in Tianjin that have remained ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“ghost citiesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢, Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â a danger sometimes Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â attributed to Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â building cities without thinking about the people being targeted. It has taken more than four years for people to start settling in AngolaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s Kilamba. Built to house 200,000 people, it had remained a ghost town with a population of only 40,000 by 2014.
Experience proves that designing a city requires both top-bottom and bottom-up approaches which allows for a merger of both the technocrats (urban planners, managers, engineers, etc.) and the citizens (public participation). The merger enables understanding of the socio-cultural dynamics and thus the construction of a people driven city.
In Nairobi, Kenya, many ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“new private citiesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ are to be developed in Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â the capital cityÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s periphery on what were previously large scale commercial farms. Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â These are in a way similar to ‘edge cities’ that have developed in other parts of the world.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â An ‘Edge City‘ is depicted as a semi autonomous townÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â that develops on the periphery of another larger city. Ordinarily edge cities are stated to have:
- five million square feet of office space
- 600,000 square feet of retail space
- population must rise every morning and drop every afternoon (more jobs that homes)
- single- end destination (the place “has it all”)
- area must not have been anything like a “city” 30 years prior
These cities do not lack their own challenges. Most are automobile dependent for access and internal movement. Attempting to change this would require coordination with local government authorities towards establishing an effective mass transit system to ease access to the new city. Most African cities do not have mass transit systems and the possibility of these being developed to serve only privately run edge cities may not be sustainable. Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
African cities are characterized by high levels of informality, a trend that emerges as an offset of economic disparities. The newly planned private cities have to consider how to handle attraction of informal sectors and activities. With their close proximity to the capital city, there will be many push and pull factors that will attract the informal sector towards these private cities as well as Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â to Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â their peripheries such as subordinate jobs and ready market for cheap products. This gives rise to the likelihood of a ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“Private CityÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ ending up as Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â an ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“island of wealthÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ in an ocean of slums..
Private sector drive tends to be profit oriented. Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Within the public sector the Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â tendency is Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â to view new cities Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â as a means of reducing Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â the growing populationÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s demands on the public sector Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â as well as enhancing economic growth. However, key questions surrounding the overall sustainability of private cities must be asked. This includes the effects of poor management of current cities creeping into the new cities. An Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â example would be the proposed ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“MachaCityÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ by the Machakos County Government with regard to which an emerging Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â concern is whether the County Government would propose a new city next to the current town because of fears Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â that it is not competent enough to handle the issues of the existing town. Other similar cases are Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â the ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“Mombasa Gate CityÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ and the proposed African Silicon ValleyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ – ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“Konza TechnoCityÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢.
Privately proposed developments in Nairobi, Kenya include Tatu City and ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“Two RiversÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ multi user developments that include residential, commercial, infrastructural and service provision components. These are depicting themselves as proposed well planned urban centres and a substitute to the publicly run municipalities. However, little is disclosed about their regional assimilation and long term plans.
Failure to take into account the eventual necessity for densification, extensification, or peripheral growth considering anticipated urban growth rates poses the danger of Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â private cities becoming constrained within their current borders. Development of private cities will create a new market for land demand and land use within the peri-urban area in an open market subject to the legislative guidelines of the local authorities. This is also no guarantee that infrastructure outside the private city developed by the local authority would be up to the same standard.
Legislative and land tenure challenges also arise in terms of Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â the relationship between the city management and the local government (which is subject to political unpredictability). The trend is to change the land from agricultural to commercial/industrial use, which in many cases implies a change in land rates and rents. This Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â has an effect not only on the private city but also on the entire surrounding region. If not controlled, this creates an opportunity for the rural areas on its peripheral areas to develop into unplanned urban areas or informal settlements.
Service provision; water, sewage, power, garbage and public works are normally the responsibility of the local authority. Private cities require efficient long term planning for this to be done effectively. Some of the proposed cities intend to source their own water, power and manage their sewerage systems. Legal agreements with local governments are necessary so as to prevent duplication of roles at the peripheries of these cities as they develop.
On the political angle, freedom of movement is also a Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â matter of concern. Do ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“private citiesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ have open access to everyone who wants to walk within them? Or are they to be ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“class segregated townsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢? In that case would one consider them ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“CitiesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ or ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“Private EstatesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢? How are beggars, job hunters and informal traders to be treated?
Increasing need to access the new ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“CitiesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ will predictably lead to increased traffic congestion on public roads which even when expanded may not satisfy the demand. A high Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â automobile presence level may limit ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“pedestrianizationÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ and promotion of Non Motorized Transit resulting in a negative outcome as regards the areaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s carbon footprint. Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Additionally, in the instances where access to and mobility within the private city such as BRT, LRT or public roads are constructed by the local authority, is the city still private or is it public? And, are the city owners willing to subsidize internal mass transit facilities? The need for supporting infrastructure like industrial access to rail and roads also depends highly on local authorities and central government.
Town planning and urban development has to be viewed as more than just the construction of roads and new buildings. It entails a study of all the other forces at play within the environment including social, cultural, legal and physical factors.
How can ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“private citiesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ take these factors into account and develop accordingly? How can the development of private cities incorporate a socio-political balance Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â so as to avoid future land use conflict?