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Bold Plans Needed for African Cities

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makabusi
makabusi  
5/28/2014 2:44:19 PM
User Rank Town Crier
Reality Cities
Born in Zimbabwe is something one does not forget. Visit www.makabusi.com and www.starkorecity.com for a different view of "things" that matter.

Then consider a world wide phenomena that will never end -- migration.
The new colonials have arrived.
Without as much as a whisper the South African government allowed at least 400 000 Chinese to swamp the country during the past six years.  Chinese migrants, mainly from the overpopulated Fujian province in China,have been shipped off to South Africa at an alarming rate.  Spreading all over the country, even in the remotest parts, between 6 000 and 12 000 "Chinese shops" sprang up - indicating that the phenomenon is well-orchestrated by both China and South Africa ..
Prof Colin McCarthy, retired from the University of Stellenbosch , first noted the "Chinese colonization".  Says Prof McCarthy:  "All the evidence indicates that the project to set up such an extensive network of Chinese shops, all following the same pattern and targeting the same market, was well researched, well planned, well organized and well financed".
The young, unemployed couples from Fujian province settled into the network - pushing up cheap Chinese plastic, products and clothing into a lucrative retail chain far bigger than Pick 'n Pay, Pep Stores or Edgars.  To make matters worse: most of theChinese shops are not registered and do not pay any taxes in South Africa' not even import or export duties - in fact, China puts its clothing exports to South Africa to R11,3 billion in 2010; whilst South Africa's failing statistics put the Chinese clothing imports at only R6,7 billion!  It means that in one single year R4,6 billion worth of Chinese clothing entered South Africa illegally.
A South African Revenue Services employee spilled the beans on a small Chinese shop in a rural area where, when raided by SARS,R1,2 million was found under the counter.
Janet Wilhelm of the HSRC observes:  "It is amazing how so many people can enter a country seemingly unnoticed!"  She quotes the SAPS Aliens Investigation Unit as saying "Many Chinese travel to South Africa via Mbabane , Maputo and Maseru from where they enter South Africa with false identity documents by road".
Patrick Chong, chairman of the Chinese Association of South Africa, says:  "Many would enter on tourist or student visas then simply stay".
Researches of Noseweek followed the Chen family where one pioneer settled illegally in South Africa , spreading within four years to 172 members of the family scattered across Lesotho trading Chinese products.
What is even more mind-boggling and sinister is that the South African ANC government officially proclaimed Chinese as "honorary blacks", making them exempt from affirmative action, quotas and Black Economic Empowerment.
The whole "Chinese" experiment has been carefully planned, criminally enhances, and no doubt .. Vast sums of money are involved, lining the pockets of very influential South African politicians.
It is ironic that while populists like Malema and Shivangu walk about claiming "land and minerals for the South African people", the ANC government has allowed at least 400 000 additional Indians and Pakistanis, at least 400 000 Chinese and at least 10 million illegals from Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Mozambique, Angola and now also Zambia into the country..
Scary!  And this happened as the increase in rhino and other poaching started!  Coincidental?  I think NOT!

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Walter Fieuw
Walter Fieuw  
5/27/2014 4:05:06 PM
User Rank Blogger
Re: slums
City Solver, I don't think that the comment on the livelihoods networks and associational ties that exist in informal settlements is "romanticising" life in slums at all. There are so many examples of how connections between people is the glue that holds dynamic informal economy together, whether it be recycling, services, production of goods, etc. And on the topic of settlement typologies and densities; environmental impact; communal associations;  - you have said it all...

So I am not sure I follow your logic here Terry. How are you making a jump to such wild statements like "we should then be commending murderers for helping with population control" and "I've been rich and I've been poor, and rich is better." 

Don't forget that slums are systemic urban issues, which dates back to colonial master plans that segregated cities for the colonial powers and white priviledge. The "informalisation" of African cities are breaking down these spatial divisions. Yes, here you will find the poorest of the poor. But informal settlements are dynamic places, and we need to TOTALLY discard the notion of "eradicating" them, and move to progressive steps to development them, providing infrastructure, use transport systems to connect them, and provide alternative and cost effect housing solutions.

CitySolver
CitySolver  
5/27/2014 11:40:04 AM
User Rank Blogger
slums
I said in my comment that slums need not be kept. I am not romanticising them, I am saying, not very clearly it seems, that there are some things about them that new development can learn from, and that we in the developed world dont hold perfect answers. Clear the slums yes, but do it carefully and learn before you bulldoze, ask questions, what can we learn from the people who live in them, is there anything at all about slums that  is good and can be taken for itself and infused into new housing design. (ie density or local patterns) It is arrogance to think we have all the answers, especially when we in the developed world are the least sustainable societies on the planet. This sensitive approach is at the heart of what defines 'Sustainable development'. 

Terry Sweeney
Terry Sweeney  
5/26/2014 8:27:33 PM
User Rank Blogger
Re: slums
Sorry, CitySolver... using that same ironic logic, we should then be commending murderers for helping with population control. Might there also be a little romanticizing of poverty in your comment about the "strong communal spirit" in slums? I'm reminded of that recycled aphorism, "I've been rich and I've been poor, and rich is better."

Terry Sweeney
Terry Sweeney  
5/26/2014 8:22:49 PM
User Rank Blogger
Out of Africa
It's great to see some focus on Africa in Future Cities; it's exciting that there are some real prospects for smart, controlled development on the globe's most neglected continent. Hard to come to any firm conclusions about what Chinese money sprinkled liberally across the region will mean... as an American who's benefitted from American capitalism and the exploitation of resources abroad, I can't exactly throw stones here. One hopes the Chinese will be mindful guardians of what they extract from Africa.

CitySolver
CitySolver  
5/26/2014 12:45:26 PM
User Rank Blogger
slums
Hi Walter,

Yes, the ironic thing is that slums are good for the environment, they use minimal energy and have a strong communal spirit, but before people accuse me of racism and first world arrogance (even the name first world is awful!), I absolutely dont think that we should keep them or that the people are happy there, however there are some elements that should be kept, like the collective feeling, the use of natural materials where possible and the dynamism of theses places where life goes on desptite terrible odds. They are the best and the worst of places, while we must solve the worst (bacteria, unacceptable drinking water, lack of technological opportunities) we should aim not to lose the good stuff.

Susan Leach
Susan Leach  
5/25/2014 4:12:57 PM
User Rank Blogger
Re: South and South
Thanks for the Dambisa article, Walter. The extend and variety of Chinese investment is impressive -- greater than I had realized. It was the neo-colonialism aspect I had heard about and so I wondered if these young countries might be signing over their natural resources longterm without getting a full and fair exchange. Time will tell, no doubt. But as you say, if the government and private sector can't provide the type of infrastructure etc. needed to push the country forward, maybe there's no alternative.

Walter Fieuw
Walter Fieuw  
5/25/2014 4:01:10 PM
User Rank Blogger
Re: verdant cities
City Solver, I don't like the graphics that much! As I wrote, these are often "fantasy" plans created by international design and architecture firms which is really out of touch with local conditions. 

The use of anything remoting associated with "slum clearance" should be totally avoided. We need to move beyond this discourse, which was really prevalent in the early 2000s towards speaking of incremental upgrading. So I do agree with what you are saying about displacement of the poor. Slums are the most pressing agenda of our urban times and we need more critical engagement about what this will look like. Cities will have slums in the foreseeable future, and these are likely to become larger and larger...

Walter Fieuw
Walter Fieuw  
5/25/2014 3:55:51 PM
User Rank Blogger
Re: South and South
That's pretty difficult to say. 2014 does mark a considerable milestone in Sino-African trade relations which crossed the $200 billion mark, a growth of 700% over the past decade. I would say that a lot of China's outward growth strategy is determined by its local economic growth rates, which seem to be slowing down. 

Economics is not my strong point, but what I have read it seems that there are arguments for and against. That is - Chinese infrastructure development is happening at a pace that neither the state nor the private sector is able to deliver, but then this is not uncontested, with many pointing to dumping, price fixing and neo-colonialism (see Dambisa Moyo's article)

Susan Leach
Susan Leach  
5/25/2014 2:39:27 PM
User Rank Blogger
Re: South and South
African authorities are handing over rights to natural resources (minerals, fisheries, agriculture land) to the Chinese in exchange for the increased trade and infrastructure development.

That's a pretty alarming scenario, not that the Chinese are the first to do this, of course. But do you have a sense of how long term these agreements are? Are we talking 5 years, 8 years, or decades?  

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