Money making and the Nairobi housing boom

It’s seven o’clock in the evening. In Ngong Road trucks drive past, returning masons and laborers to the slums on the outskirts of Nairobi. Meanwhile, on the terrace of a cafeteria, a man in a suit flips through a property magazine. The headline reads: “The fastest way to get your money back”. Nairobi is one … Continued

Old meets new at the Addis mercato

In Addis Ababa the urban landscape is changing. Skyscrapers and new roads are going up quickly, and the streets are filled with the hum of construction. The new 50,000 square-metre African Union headquarters, a gift courtesy of China, is just the tip of the building boom in Ethiopia’s capital. Besides being a political hub, Addis … Continued

iHub a mecca for African ICT entrepreneurs

Technology is a necessity rather than a luxury in Kenya. It was the first Sub-Saharan country to establish a government open data platform. Kenyans use the application PesaPal for online shopping and payment of bus tickets, electricity and water bills. They transfer money with M-Pesa. This demonstrates the adaptability of Kenyan society to new technologies. … Continued

Kickstarting the night-time economy of our cities

In Cape Town, our streets are primarily designed as arteries to accommodate the transport of goods and people, often with little regard for the pedestrian. They are the most vital of our public places, as they are where public life happens, and how they invite walking, shopping, and the presence of people throughout the day, … Continued

Community savings for urban change: building women’s leadership for slum upgrading

Republished from Shack/Slum Dwellers International Savings groups form the basis of collective action in urban poor communities. The establishment of community savings is a core ritual of the urban poor federation building process, and the central participation of women in community savings significantly improves the quality of the process and the probability of sustainable change. … Continued

Time for Accra to see the informal realm not as a “sector” but as people

“Africa is people!” Three words, the central, frustrated and hopeful thesis of Chinua Achebe’s final compilation of essays. As I read his essays, I kept thinking, “And also, Accra is people, and ‘informal Accra’ is people.” This is obvious, of course. But the obvious is sometimes easy to overlook, a point I’ll get back to. … Continued

Thoughts on a world class African city

On 8 July 2013 the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that an advertisement of the City of Johannesburg in which it referred to itself as a “world class African city” was “misleading”. According to ASA, the city had made various misleading claims in the advertisement, namely that it was financially secure, environmentally friendly and had … Continued

iPhone hustlers provide a last-mile solution for a global market

(By Sharon Benzoni/Informal City Dialogues) Chris Oppong-Agyemang’s landlady is called “Tip Toe Mama,” and for good reason. Her family owns the land where the Red Tip Toe House stands, and supposedly, it is this house that gave Tip Toe Lane its memorable name. Just a decade ago, the street was an entertainment district, I’m told. … Continued

Commercial and street activity intersect in Accra

“Original memory card, original pen drive, original battery, local battery, mp3, original battery, local charger,” a recorded voice blares repeatedly from a loudspeaker. The speaker is attached to a small wooden stall, laden with small-scale electronics: phones, phone covers, headphones, pen drives. It’s one of many stalls situated in the open space at Tetteh Quarshie … Continued

Tiny bags of water buoy an economy, and make a big mess

Republishd from Nextcity’s Informal City Dialogues “PURE-water!” It’s a refrain often heard around Accra, accompanied most often by the appearance of a sweating woman or girl with a pan on her head filled with cold plastic sachets of water. A “pure water” seller and her familiar cry will always be cutting through the throngs of … Continued