While African cities are growing rapidly in population, they are developing informally as current urban planning has proven to be ineffective, and private development is often deterred by opaque or inappropriate regulations.

Researchers predict that in 2030, Lagos, Cairo and Kinshasa will each have to cater for over 20 million people, while Luanda, Dar es Salaam and Johannesburg will have crossed the 10 million mark. By 2035, close to 30 million people could live in Lagos alone, turning Nigeria’s commercial hub into the largest mega city on the continent.

When it comes to investments in infrastructure, industrial and commercial structures, and affordable formal housing, African cities have, until now, failed to keep pace with the concentration of people. In Dar es Salaam, 28% of residents live at least three to a room; in Abidjan, that number rises to 50%; And in Lagos, Nigeria, two out of three people dwell in slums.

The World Bank’s African Cities report has also found that in cities like Antananarivo, Madagascar; Brazzaville, the Republic of the Congo; and Harare, Zimbabwe, non-contiguous built-up areas are scattered throughout the centre, with more than 30% of land within 5 kilometres of the city centre still left unbuilt.

In Ghana, buying land has often proved difficult when people often try and sell land that may not even be theirs. Others even end up building on land thinking they own it; only to find out when they need a loan that the land is not theirs.

Tackling the problem with land registration, Benben is a digital land registry and transaction system that was designed to solve a number of the inefficiencies in land administration currently experienced in Ghana, aiming to promote investment and encourage transparent property management in the region in future.

“With the inevitable population growth, African cities have an exciting opportunity to embrace technology to leapfrog ahead of the world in terms of affordable services and smart cities. Through adopting innovative technologies such as blockchain and AI there is the potential to uplift millions of people into prosperity and the formal economy,” comments Daniel Bloch, Co-founder, BenBen.

Springing African cities from this low development trap, how else can governments and institutions begin to properly address Africa’s need for better urban infrastructure and affordable housing? Are developers involved in real estate development in Africa looking at the right solutions, using architectural and planning approaches that are more than just mere carbon copies of cities elsewhere in the world?

Over the next 20 years, the rapid growth of Africa’s urban populations is expected to thrust new demand for infrastructure, housing and other physical structures, and amenities. To meet this new demand, city leaders and planners need adaptable strategies.

Author: Gesture Chidhanguro