Rehabilitating Africa

From Design Indaba:  a proposed project – this might be a candidate for the very problem that was discussed earlier here of Gentrification but the need in African Cites is undeniable and many of them are so run down that they are in desperate need of development with the incredible growth of these cites projects like this are bound to happen:

Issa Diabaté has launched a project that seeks to rehabilitate a district of Abidjan, Ivory Coast to create a city that is economically and socially viable.

The Cocody Bay Landscaping Project by Issa Diabaté.

The Cocody Bay Landscaping Project by Issa Diabaté.

“Designing with a broad vision makes things possible”, said Issa Diabaté atDesign Indaba Conference 2014, while presenting his groundbreaking urban planning endeavour The Cocody Bay Landscaping Project.

The Cocody Bay Landscaping Project is an urban planning and architecture project designed for the rehabilitation of the lagoon bay area located in the centre of the city of Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

The issue for the Ivory Coast is the lack of vision for urban planning, says Diabaté.

Diabaté’s firm Koffi & Diabaté Architects was commissioned by the District of Abidjan in an effort to rehabilitate an area, which has suffered from major degradation over the past 20 years due to sewage problems that affected the landscape on a grand scale.

Beyond just rehabilitation the project aims to establish a positive and long-lasting impact on the city by developing a new leisure and economic centre in the heart of the town. As such, in an effort to incorporate both environmental and social needs, along with the rehabilitation of the bay, an integral part of the project is the design of major green and leisurely spaces for city dwellers in the form of boardwalks a d various entertainment areas.

The Cocody Bay Landscaping Project also involves the development of a “smart city” incorporating notions of urban planning for social mobility. With this in mind, Diabaté will create a new residential and commercial area in the hope of fostering a rise in employment and future economic viability for the city.

The project is due for launch this year and is estimated to take between five and ten years to complete. 

 

The Cocody Bay Landscaping Project was showcased as part of Design Indaba Expo’s Africa is Now exhibition under the theme of “Africa is Urban”. The exhibition and theme in particular shrugged off the perception that Africa is largely rural and instead reveal how it is a engine for growth and opportunity in both challenges and possibilities present on the continent. 

African Cities are Walking Cities, but are they Walkable?

From Walkonomics the real deal in African and other developing cities will be to accomplish the transition from walking because people have to, to walking because its the best way to get around, while in most South african cities its not – public transport is not safe, cheap or reliable hence the drive for private cars and use of mini-bus taxis. Does any young city dweller where not want his own car in order to be cool? 

If you’ve ever been in an East African city during rush hour, then you’ll know that African cities are walking cities.  In the rapidly urbanising capitals of Africa, walking is by far and away the most popular form of transport.  For instance over 60% of trips in Addis Ababa are made on foot, while just 9% of trips are made in a car and in Nairobi over 45% of people walk.  These are the kind of walking statistics that developed cities can only dream of: London struggles to get 20% of people to walk and in New York its between 10-20%.

Can a growing city keep people walking?

As a result, the current CO2 emissions of these cities are extremely low, with the vast majority of people either walking or using ‘ad-hoc’ public transport such as the small blue and white minibuses of Addis Ababa.  However most Urban Africans aren’t walking out of choice, but simply because they can’t afford to travel in any other way.  The real challenge facing urban governments in Africa is to maintain these high levels of walking as their cities grow at an incredible rate and Urban Africans start to earn enough to be able to afford to travel differently.

So walking is popular in Africa, but this isn’t because urban African streets are walking-friendly.  In fact quite the opposite: 63% of streets in Addis Ababa lack any pavements or sidewalks and crossings are rare.  Africans walk despite the un-walkable urban environment, not because of it.  Walking isn’t only difficult, its also very dangerous with 67% of road accidents involving pedestrians in Ethiopia’s capital.  Sadly this is the case in many developing countries, where road accidents are a growing epidemic and are expected to be the third biggest killer by 2020.

Walkable urban development

Faced with these huge challenges and opportunities the United Nations have recently pumped over $3 million into a project to kick-start sustainable transport in three African capital cities.  ’Sustainable transport in East African Cities‘ will support and fund improvements to walkability, bikeability and public transport in Nairobi, Addis Ababa and Kampala.  The project is built around creating Bus Rapid Transit systems (BRT) in each city, similar to schemes in Johannesburg andBogata.  BRT are low cost and efficient bus systems with dedicated ‘busways’ and high quality enclosed stations.  They provide the usability and capacity of other Mass Rapid Transit (like trams or subways) but at a fraction of the cost, making BRT an ideal option for developing cities.

As well as establishing BRT systems, the project will create more walkable and bikeable streets in each city, which will form a sustainable transport network. These improvements will include building more sidewalks, signalised crossing and improving road safety. It is hoped that by creating a holistic transport system now, each city can provide a sustainable alternative to the car-dependent development that has caused so many problems in western cities. Perhaps this will also mean that while East African cities continue to develop and grow richer, their citizens will still choose to embrace walking as the best way to move in the city.

Images courtesy of sameffron and carlosfpardo on Flickr.

Africa embracing m-commerce

From putting people first blog information of how business targets the way people use their phones in their daily lives – while it highlights the manipulative power of commercial interests to influence peoples actions, it also shows how the technology is making access to the world easier for these people. Again this type of research is only possible with the resources that the business financial model gives and seems unobtainable from non-commercail research .

In a new report from its ConsumerLab, Ericsson maps out the potential of transformation within m-commerce across the region of sub-Saharan Africa.

Based on in-depth, extensive interviews with mobile phone users in Ghana, South Africa, and Tanzania, the report has four key findings: that consumers are constantly looking for new ways to improve their personal budgets; the speed and convenience of m-commerce points to great potential in the market; current behaviors and social structures indicate that the use of mobile payment services will expand; and that consumers need more information about the functionality and security of m-commerce transactions.

Consumers tell Ericsson researchers that they use mobile payment services for person-to-person transfers and purchasing airtime on their mobile subscriptions, and that they like the convenience of accessing money everywhere and at anytime, regardless of service hours. In Tanzania, for example, 38% of subscribers send money person-to-person over the mobile phone.

Another conclusion of the report is that people who use m-commerce keep little separation between private and business accounts.

Experience leads to greater trust, and the report finds that 44% of non-users of m-commerce are very worried about the integrity of their account information in case of theft or loss of their phones.

– Press release
– Media kit

Networks Matter – Urban Migration or The Alternative Liveable Cities Index

After posting the previous report on Global Cities: Quality of Life, Liveability and Cost of Living Surveys 2012 – What are they worth? it occurred to me that there might be a variety of alternative rankings of where the best places to live are and this would obviously depend on who you are,  your financial situation and  the quality of life  you currently experience in the place you wish to leave. So I did a little research and although  I could not directly find what I was looking for here are some musings and links that might be of interest in countering the impression that we all have to move to Helsinki or Melbourne.The majority of the worlds population live where they  are – that is where they were born . I am one of them and have happily lived and worked my whole life here in Cape Town unlike many of my school friends, relatives  and business associates who emigrated to Australia , Europe or the USA in the Apartheid era.  However, for those unable or unwilling to stay in the untenable or desperate situation they find where they were born, they decide or are forced to move – usually to the nearest town or closest city they can get to – where they hope they will be able to find work and a place to stay,  in deciding which city to “trek” to they definitely don’t have access to any of the aforementioned elite media  or a high speed internet connection to check out  what city to live in.My own parents, poor(-ish), but educated, white South Africans  made the transition from a rural  farming background  in the pre- 2nd World War depression era to leave their   rural life which was plagued by drought and uncertain farming commodity markets  to seek a better future in the city and to find jobs then said to be available in government as a teacher and a Posts and Telegraph technician in Cape Town.  Their parents were in turn descendants of European migrants who, several generations earlier, had fled from religious persecution in rural France and from famine and wars  in Ireland and staking everything on flimsy evidence and penniless had immigrated to South Africa, landed n Cape Town and eventually found a place to settle in the somewhat desolate North West of the country in Namaqualand. My parents in their move to the city soon after they married, took advantage of kin-ship networks of family who had already moved or had strong ties with trade and professional work in the Mother City. With much less opportunity but probably from similar conditions, currently waves of rural and small town inhabitants are migrating to the cities nearest to them or to more distant cities which offer the promise of a better life or at least hope of survival where their current conditions seem to be hopeless.

Interestingly though, the amount of information passed through the refugee and  rural urban migration  networks must include a vast and largely  undocumented information resource on the opportunities, dangers and “how to get by” in the foreign and unknown urban environment.  There is a growing body of work on these migrant networks and the implied social capital of their ethnic and kinship networks e.g the work of Abdou Maliq Simone “Moving Towards Uncertainty: Migration and the Turbulence of African Urban Life”  who along with many other researchers on the urbanism of the global South such as the paper Networks matter : the value of kinship ties in the Zimbabwean migration landscape” presented by Khangelani MOYO  at a the African Migrations Workshop in Dakar Sengal  in 2010, are increasingly drawing different conclusions about African migration and what makes a city liveable and that these metrics are very different to those  that are cites by the World Bank, UNEP and simialar organisations who participate in African Aid and in cause what some authors  term “African Dependance”

The cultural and social capital that is exhibited here in Cape Town by migrant Malawians that obviously informs them on how to use photocopied/printed  slips of paper detailing their availability, skills as gardeners, domestic help or similar jobs they are willing to do,  which they deposit in suburban houses letter boxes or hand out  at traffic lights, is a unique attribute of a specific nations social capital.  The conditions that drive these quite well educated job-seekers to leave their homeland, and take on menial work in order to be able to sustain themselves and send income to supplement their  families livelihood in the home country, is in all respects the same as that drove my ancestors and parents to migrate and seeks a better life for themselves and their children..

UN Refugee agency 2012

Similarly refugee Somalians must have an extensive social network  that allows them tobecome street traders or “spaza” shop owners in the local townships, at transport interchanges and on the streets around major shopping areas, often displacing less organised or networked locals and  even to opening small cafes and shops in the periphery of  central Cape Town. This has been postulated a the source of xenophobia and a smouldering resentment can be palpably  felt amongst the traders on the Grand parade for example and at places like Bellville Transit interchange where the dominance of foreign nationals as traders is visible in the religious dress of the women and the presence of mosques in and prayer time  observances on the pavement, more suggestive of a North African city that post-apartheid Cape Town e.g.  Zaheera Jinnah’s paper  Making Home in a Hostile Land: Understanding Somali Identity, Integration, Livelihood and Risks in Johannesburg”

More recently the  Gauteng City-Region Observatory released is Quality of Life Survey which included a range of reports, for example on  ‘Xenophobic attitudes” which reported: “A shocking 69% of respondents in a recent survey agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that “foreigners are taking benefits meant for South Africans”.

While this might seem like a unique South African problem in the context of  the history of Apartheid, forced migration and urban segregation, it is not  and in Simone Abram’s   discussion of the concept(s) of culture  and national identity in his recent book, “Culture and Planning”,  he quotes a study by Marianne Gullestad which compares attitudes of two authors to race and xenophobia in Norway from both the perspective of Norwegians and that of ethnic and religious minorities and situates these problematic differences of points of view in a what, to non- Norwegians, appears to be a fairly racially homogenous country which is yet culturally diverse.  She states ” It is not the white Norwegian’s encounter with persons of colour which is significant, but the meaning of this encounter in a much broader and enduring history that extends the geographical reach into colonialism, and the anti-Semitic and eugenics movements between the two World Wars” This is of course particularly relevant in the light of Anders Behring Breivik’s recent trial guilty verdict, 21 year jail sentence of and his defiant attitude and belief that his killing of  77 people  last summer was an act of “National Defence”

What this might mean in terms a “liveability” is debatable – is a liberal and sustainable but cold and rarely xenophobic Norwegian city more liveable that a hot  North African or Middle Eastern city where there are no jobs and incessant warfare but you are in  a close-knit web of family and religious  networks – which is more liveable?

The Alternative Liveable Cities Index – or “how to get by wherever you are “. Enough for now more to come soon………

Why Designers Need To Stop Feeling Sorry For Africa

This article from Co.DESIGN although couched in the terminology of neo-liberal capitalism and  written from the perspective of extracting value from the worlds poorest people, the recognition that there is a creativity and resourcefulness in African’s diverse people that is often surprising in its adoption of technology and it’s ability to utilize the technology of commercial exploitation in novel ways which are subsequently subsumed by the purveyors of this technology e.g.How the developing world is using cellphone technology to change lives. This, together with the appreciation of the patronizing tone of much of the coverage given to such innovation is being given credit, which is a step towards treating all  people as of equal value, regardless  their origin or bank account or lack of one.

A different  exploration or alternative view is given by Abdoumaliq Simone  in his introduction to URBAN AFRICA: Changing Contours of Survival in the City

 “Urban Africans have long made lives that have worked. There has been  an astute capacity to use thickening fields of social relations… to make city life viable. …..It  emphasizes the resilience and resourcefulness displayed by African Cities .. the ways in which urban life is concretized across the region are thus seen not as history or as a series of policies gone wrong; rather we wish to emphasize the determination of  urban Africans to find their own way.”

TAKING A PATRONIZING APPROACH TO INVESTING IN AFRICA UNDERMINES THE CONTINENT’S PEOPLE AND ENTREPRENEURIAL PROMISE, ARGUE JENS MARTIN SKIBSTED AND RASMUS BECH HANSEN.

Earlier this year, the Cooper-Hewitt wrapped up “Design with the Other 90%: Cities,” the second in a series of exhibitions intended to demonstrate how design can address the world’s most critical issues. This time around, the focus was on the challenges created by rapid urban growth in informal settlements. Some highlights were Digital Drum in Kampala, Uganda, a solar-powered information access point made from two durable, low-cost oil drums welded together, rugged keyboards, solar panels, and low-power tablets; a large-scale oven that uses trash as fuel to power a communal cooking facility in Kibera, Nairobi; and M-Pesa, a money-transfer service that enables urban migrants in Kenya to send money back to their villages via a mobile device.

The designers represented were local. But locals aren’t leading the pack when it comes to designing products for the bottom of the pyramid. Examples of Western efforts to care for the other 90% are many: Social entrepreneurship has grown into a full-fledged program at Harvard,Forbes started a list of the top 30 social entrepreneurs last year, and a host of major design studios have established nonprofit initiatives, including IDEO and Fuseproject. The latter designed MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte’s $100 laptop, with the goal of creating an educational project for poor schoolchildren, rather than a cheap laptop for the masses.

It is no wonder that these projects have gained massive interest, since bottom-of-the-pyramid markets–those in the lowest global income band (with average household incomes below $1,500 a year)–provide a tantalizing market opportunity. In his book The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, the Wharton Business School professor C. K. Prahalad argues that businesses can combat poverty and turn a profit at the same time.

But the road to hell may well be paved with good intentions. There clearly is a bottom-of-the-pyramid market, but linking it to “aid culture”–a non-market-driven-culture–detracts from the entrepreneurial opportunity. And correlating hunger, AIDS, malaria, poverty, and illiteracy with Africa perpetuates a stereotype that is far from the optimistic, go-get-it-attitude and ambition that we’ve encountered when traveling in Africa. Take, for instance, the title of this Harvard report: “HIV/AIDS and Business in Africa and Asia: A Guide to Partnerships.”

Obviously, HIV/AIDS is an issue to be addressed, but confusing and pairing regions with issues make them synonymous in the public eye. How does “Obesity/Diabetes and Business in North America: A Guide to Partnerships” sound? To us, it sounds funny, but it doesn’t sound conducive to business. How would American businesses react to foreign customers who expressed pity for them at large? I bet that seeing foreign news headlines like “Give America a Chance: Support the Fat and Illiterate” would get tiring after a while. That is what Africans experience over and over again–plus foreign-media-dominated news about Africa to the outside world.

There are many exceptions, of course. But a disappointingly big part of them share the patronizing and generalist perspectives on Africa. One of us watched William Kamkwamba, a young Malawian who built windmills to power his parts of his village, speak at a TED conference in Arusha, Tanzania, in 2007. What was so remarkable about him was his genuinely humble attitude, resisting moderator Chris Anderson’s prompts to elaborate on his own accomplishments. “I just did it” was Kamkwamba’s typical response. He is, by any standard, a great guy, but his story is now woven into this other narrative of Africa–the patronizing Western assumption that Africans are up against insurmountable odds and ethnological challenges.

Entrepreneurs in chains

A rant at the bureaucracy that chains entrepreneurs in South Africa sent to me by a farmer friend who is at the mercy of these chains yet continues to farm, process and pack agricultural produce –    by Clem Sunter: Scenario planner, speaker and best-selling author.

This article is prompted by two conversations I have had recently; one with a young Chinese woman at a lunch with friends last Sunday and the other with a South African businessman who has just returned from Lagos in Nigeria.

In the first conversation, the lady said that despite the strong political hold that the Chinese Communist Party has over the nation, in the minor towns and villages across the country economic anarchy reigns. This has been incredibly beneficial in that it has led to an entrepreneurial revolution which has propelled China to No 2 in the global economic order behind the US. It may not be the sole cause because you have to consider foreign investment in China as well, but sure as night follows day it has helped.

The businessman said that he had gone to Lagos expecting another down-at-heel, demotivated Third World city. Instead, he discovered one of the most exciting places he has ever visited, putting it on the same pedestal as Hong Kong. He found the entrepreneurial energy irresistible in Lagos. Everywhere he went people were buying and selling things in an unregulated environment other than the prime rule of cash on delivery. He now considers Johannesburg’s boastful slogan of being the leading business centre in Africa to be totally empty. He sees the future of African capitalism as Lagos. Johannesburg belongs to the history book of colonial capitalism.

What both these people’s opinions had in common was the idea of economic freedom – not the one peddled by Julius Malema of transferring assets at no cost between rich and poor with an increasing role for the state. The one they have in mind is breaking the oppressive chains binding the small business owners in this country. True liberation will only come when all those creative souls who are not politicians, not civil servants, not directors or employees of large, established businesses, not unionists or union members, not the recipients of regular monthly pay cheques, are put on a par with those inhabiting parliament and the formal economy.

Consider the following chains that currently shackle South African entrepreneurs:

1. The snobbish attitude of the political and business intelligentsia in this country which at worst consider entrepreneurs to be criminals and at best greedy little capitalists that need to be tolerated as a sideshow. Whichever, they have to be regulated as an irresponsible underclass.

2. All recent national plans. They have emphasised the developmental state which is a euphemism for more chains and more regulation and more economic prioritisation. The people writing these plans have never personally had to create wealth themselves in order to be paid. As recipients of regular salaries, they have no idea of the risks involved in being an entrepreneur. Remember it is economic anarchy in China which has largely contributed to its economic miracle. Nassim Taleb puts it a different way in his books about black swans and randomness: it is all a matter of luck as to which businesses grow into major international concerns and which fail. The best policy is thus to have an environment which maximises the number of new businesses without any preferences for particular industries. The lucky ones will make it and you have no idea beforehand which they are.

3. The vast bureaucracy surrounding the establishment and ongoing operation of a small business in a legal manner. We are now regarded as one of the most hostile countries in the world for entrepreneurs. Most small businesses here only have one employee – the owner. The reason is that nobody wants to take on extra people with the potential hassle of going to the labour court if these people fail to perform. Below a certain size, entrepreneurs should have total freedom to hire and fire as it is their business and their money after all. It is not the taxpayers’ money.

4. The culture of non-payment to small business which thrives in the world of big business and government. In big business, standard payment terms can extend to 120 days while some state entities like hospitals never pay which is why they are in such trouble. The whole process of being approved as a vendor is now used an excuse to defer payment. Can you imagine going to a supermarket and walking out with a trolley full of goods and saying to the security guard that you will pay as soon as the supermarket fills in the appropriate forms to become your approved vendor? Big companies do this all the time to small service providers.

5. The tight-fisted approach of all providers of capital to entrepreneurs in South Africa. The financial universe here resembles a well-heeled club that is happy to extend credit to members. But woe betide uppity non-members who rudely knock on its doors making unreasonable requests to finance small business ventures. What a lack of manners! Why don’t they just disappear and borrow from their equally vulgar and impecunious friends?

I can go on, but we have completely lost the plot. Until we fundamentally change our mindset in regard to entrepreneurs and regard them as the centrepiece of this nation’s future economic prosperity, we are finished. Nigeria will overtake us in the next 10 years as the continent’s largest and most vibrant economy and leave us eating dust.

Useful resources:

Mind of a Fox We are foxy, game-playing strategists and the authors of two number 1 best selling books

A New Silicon Valley? Tech Hubs Spring Up In Africa

Internet access is expanding rapidly across the continent, and with it new organizations are coming to help foster a budding tech startup scene. From Co-Exist by Katherine Gammon

When thinking of tech hubs, Africa doesn’t exactly spring to mind. But the continent has had some amazing spurts of open innovation, with 45 collaborative hubs now open.

Africa faces some hurdles in developing information technology. Even though global Internet penetration is about 32%, it’s lower in Africa, where only around 11% of the population have access to the Internet through a computer or mobile phone. Within the continent, too, there are enormous divides. While a country like Nigeria has 28% of its population online, Ethiopia has less than 1%. But all that is changing: Internet usage in Africa has grown faster than on any other continent over the past decade.

So what exactly do tech hubs do? In the African continent, they train, connect, and encourage innovation. Here’s a closer look:

African Oasis:Babylonstoren

An “African Oasis” designed by a Frenchman in a “Cape Dutch” farmstead just outside Cape Town  filled with Western fruit trees, herbs and vegetables – true globalization… from Garden Designnow what is African About this one might ask?

PHOTO BY: Courtesy Babylonstoren

A map of the garden. Image courtesy of Babylonstoren.

Babylonstoren means “Tower of Babel” in Dutch, and the eight acres of gardens at this restored 18th-century Cape Dutch farmstead and hotel in South Africa’s Drakenstein Valley are, like their namesake, both monumental and tantalizingly unfinished. And yet, a walk through the grounds may help visitors do what that skyscraper of legend could not: touch heaven.

“Perhaps people find it peaceful because it’s not aggressive,” says Babylonstoren’s landscape designer, French architect Patrice Taravella. “Beauty is not an objective, it is the result.”

Babylonstoren garden

In the geometric gardens of Babylonstoren, a farmstead and hotel near Cape Town, South Africa, pathways paved with recycled peach pits crunch underfoot beside a gurgling, stone-lined stream that serves as the gardens’ gravity-aided irrigation system. Photo courtesy of Babylonstoren, photo by Cactus Branding

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Dial-a-Photon: Cell phone and small solar panel buy African power

Africa leading the way in off the grid power and how to pay for it – from Smart Planet By 

A small solar panel provides power to this house in Nimule, South Sudan.

A British startup company is offering rural Africans an energy efficient pay-as-you-go solar lighting kit and service that can illuminate two rooms for 7 hours using LED lamps and a rechargeable battery provided at minimal up front cost to the user.

Eight19’s IndiGo solar powered battery pack includes USB slots for charging cell phones.

Cambridge-based Eight19 last week started offering the service in Africa’s newest country, the Republic of South Sudan, in partnership with Colorado-based Christian charity WorldVenture. It aims to deploy 1,000 kits through the first half of this year, in the Nimule region.

Eight19 first launched in September in Kenya, and has expanded into Malawi, Zambia and now South Sudan, which gained independence from Sudan last July.

The service, called IndiGo, is aimed at replacing expensive and environmentally hazardous kerosene-powered lighting in off-grid rural areas.

Users spend nothing up front for the hardware except for a deposit of around $10. They buy a scratch card for $1.00 per week from a local store, send the card’s number via text, and in return receive a code via text that they enter on a keypad mounted on the system’s battery. The code works only on that user’s system.

The kit includes a small 2.5-watt solar panel measuring about  25 cm by  15 cm (10 inches by 6 inches), a lithium iron phosphate (lithium ion) battery, and 2 LED lamps. The lamps shine at 55 lumens, which is dull by some standards –  generally a 40-watt incandescent bulb provides about 450 lumens – but which offers lighting options that didn’t previously exist, including reading at night. In principle, LED light bulbs require only about 20 percent of the electricity of an incandescent bulb.

The battery pack also includes a USB slot for charging mobile phones.

Eight19 says the system can light two small rooms for 7 hours at at time. After around 18 months, users own the gear. The company also offers an “escalator” option to provide additional power for more money.

Photos from Eight19

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A Dynamic New Magazine on African Urbanism

I had to read about this in [polis]register on the link and get your free copy it looks interesting and its by the African Centre for Cities – Tau is a very innovative and creative designer – well done!

It has been nearly four months since we breathed a huge sigh of relief. After more than a year of meetings, informal conversations, exorbitant coffee bills and more meetings, we finally launched CityScapes at the Open Book literary festival in Cape Town. A brief introduction: CityScapes is a biannual print magazine focusing on cities in the Global South, an initiative of the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town. Don’t judge us by our geographical location: The cover of the launch issue features a photograph taken on the opposite end of Africa — a portrait by Moroccan artist Yto Barrada.

CityScapes has a core team of four diverse individuals: urban theorist Edgar Pieterse, who is also director of the Centre for African Cities; Camaren Peter, a sustainability researcher and scientist; journalist and arts writer Sean O’Toole; and myself, Tau Tavengwa, a bookmaker, designer and accidental researcher. The four of us spent a lot of time grappling with the various dialogues about cities in Africa. At the same time, we tried to figure out how they connected to larger conversations about urbanization and development in the Global South. One of our main conclusions was that there was need for a publication — something disciplined and thoughtful but also rambunctious — that would adequately serve a range of practitioners (scholars, architects, urbanists, journalists, artists, photographers, essayists and all other sorts of cultural factotums) saying interesting things about the “the city.”

The second issue of CityScapes is due out on April 30, 2012. It will be as eccentric and enquiring as the first.

Tau Tavengwa is co-editor, creative director and co-publisher of CityScapes.

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