Cities are the face of countries; and when we think of cities, we think of the architecture, the roads, the parks, the shops and offices, the restaurants, the houses and the way people live. Each city is unique and often encompasses the history, culture, civilization commerce and aspirations of the people. Think of London, New York, Paris, Mumbai, Dubai--or, in Africa, Lagos, Nairobi, Cape Town, Accra or any one of the scores of cities that characterise African states.
Cities are also the engines rooms of a nation's economy. This is where businesses are located and employment is generated; they are hotbeds of ideas and progress. Cities are like glowing beacons on the hill, drawing millions from the rural areas to seek better lives and chase their dreams. But for the ordinary person, cities can be heaven on earth or hell on earth.
Over the next few years, for the first time in history, more Africans will live in cities than in the rural areas. Already there is a scramble for living space in our cities and services like sanitation, the water supply, healthcare and education are either at breaking point or virtually absent. How will African cities cope with the huge new influx already making its way into cities?
This was the question that a panel of experts, including African ministers of urban planning, mayors, architects, developers and investors, gathered in the lovely city of Cape Town to thrash out. The African Urban Infrastructure Summit, organised by IC Events, is quite likely to become the first of a historic continent-wide series of forums that will attempt to shape the future face of African cities.
The meeting in Cape Town could not have come at a more appropriate moment. Vast public and private works are already changing Africa's urban landscape and the pace will continue to accelerate over the next 25 years. But a lot more needs to be thought about and discussed.
Cities are forever--or at least for a very long time. Poorly planned urban infrastructure will be a curse that future generations will inherit while well thought out planning which takes into ac count future needs and expectations will continue to flower for decades to come.
If anybody was in any doubt about this, one had only to look around Cape Town, the host city for the conference, itself. Here you have two...