Urban News Roundup: June 12, 2015

Sharm El-Sheikh: Africa creates largest free-trade zone 

Africa’s largest free-trade zone is to be created, covering 26 countries in an area from Cape Town in the south to Cairo in the north. The deal, signed in Egypt, is intended to ease the movement of goods across member countries which represent more than half the continent’s GDP. Three existing trade blocs – the Southern African Development Community, the East African Community and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa – are to be united into a single new zone. – New Vision

Accra: City in shock and mourning after deadly Ghana fire

In the middle of heavy floods last Wednesday night, an explosion at a petrol station in the Ghanaian capital killed at least 150 people. Across Ghana, flags are flying at half-mast and many public buildings have been draped in black and red bunting – common funeral colours there. A memorial service has been held near the site of the fire that devastated part of the capital city, and where the majority of people died. – BBC

Harare: Vendors fret over ultimatum

Vendors in Harare’s central business district on Friday asked the government to provide more employment opportunities in an effort to tame the wild vending situation in the capital. The vendors were given until Monday to relocate to designated areas, but they say the regulated areas have no ablution facilities and cannot accommodate the thousands of informal traders that throng the CBD. – Zimbabwe Independent

Ghana: Housing architectural designs could reduce malaria cases

Housing architectural improvements could reduce malaria cases by half in some settings, according to research published in the open access Malaria Journal. The researchers reviewed 90 studies in Africa, Asia and South America, comparing malaria cases in traditional houses and modern houses. They found that residents of modern homes were 47% less likely to be infected with malaria than those living in traditional houses, and residents were 45-65% less likely to have clinical malaria. – Ghana Business News

Lagos: Floods cripple Lagos again 

Lagos in Nigeria was crippled by floods resulting from a heavy downpour which began in the early hours of Tuesday and lasted until Wednesday evening. The heavy flooding, which was prevalent in virtually all parts of Lagos, exposed the lack of drainage channels and the dilapidated state of roads in the metropolis. The flood worsened the already chaotic transport system in the city, leaving commuters to trek long distances to get to their places of work or business. – Vanguard

Cairo: Egypt hits ‘complications’ in plan for new administrative capital 

Egypt’s housing minister on Tuesday acknowledged “complications” in contract negotiations with the investment fund expected to lead development of a new administrative capital east of Cairo. The proposed city, which Egypt plans to build within five to seven years at a cost of $45 billion, has been criticised by some Egyptians and outside observers as unnecessary and ill-conceived. – Reuters

Port Sudan: Protesters against sale of schools convicted

The Port Sudan Criminal Court convicted five people for undermining the public order and illegal gathering on Wednesday. Protests were held in May last year against plans by the Red Sea state authorities to sell four historical schools in the city centre for investment purposes. Four of the protesters were sentenced with a fine of SDG300 ($50) or two months imprisonment, while a fifth was convicted to 25 lashes. – Dabanga

Windhoek: City to fine residents for not saving water

In a move to force residents to save water, the City of Windhoek in Namibia said it will penalise households using more than 50 cubic meters per month. City representative, Joshua Amukugo said the City has been grappling with a water shortage since 2013, when they announced that there is insufficient flow into the NamWater surface reservoirs, which are serving the central area from where Windhoek is supplied. – The Namibian

Ghana: Rising through cities?

A new report by the World Bank, “Rising through Cities in Ghana,” analyses the rapid transformation of a country whose urban population has grown from 4 million in 1984 to more than 14 million today. 51% of Ghanaians now live in cities. Over the same period annual GDP growth has averaged 5.7% and the capital city, Accra, has registered a 20% reduction in poverty. – AllAfrica

Johannesburg: E-tolls a threat to locational privacy

In spite of mass opposition to electronic tolling in the province of Gauteng, South Africa, the government has decided to continue with it, and to link payment to the renewal of motor vehicle licence disks to force compliance. One human rights issue that remains unaddressed in the panel’s report is the impact of e-tolls on people’s right to locational privacy. Automated toll systems such as the one run by Sanral in Gauteng trigger particular privacy concerns because they involve the observation of specific vehicles in ways that allow the identity of the vehicle’s owner to be revealed. – IOL News

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