African Real Estate & Infrastructure Summit unpacked continent’s city building opportunities and urbanisation challenges


Africa’s Cities are Facing an Urban ‘Polycrisis’

“The first African Real Estate & Infrastructure Summit in Cape Town provided an innovative space for leading built environment professionals to engage with experts, projects, investors and practitioners from all over the continent. We are confident that the summit will grow to become the leading meeting point of the real estate and infrastructure industries in Africa.” This is according to Tim Harris, CEO of Wesgro, who was a speaker and session facilitator at the summit.

More than 300 sector experts gathered for the inaugural two-day summit earlier this month with interactive sessions that focused on key case studies of visionary city planning, investment opportunities in the commercial and residential real estate sectors across the continent, the African city of the future and the challenges of urbanisation. Innovative development projects from Cape Town, Johannesburg, Addis Ababa, Kigali, Lusaka, Kampala and the Taparura project in Tunisia were showcased.

A key finding of the conference was that Africa’s cities are facing an urban ‘polycrisis’ and that there is a need for a new urban agenda and an opportunity for innovative solutions to address urbanisation challenges.

Expert speaker highlights at the African Real Estate & Infrastructure Summit included:
“Africa is on the brink of great change. It is the fastest urbanising region in the world, with around 400 million people expected to migrate from rural areas to cities by 2050. As more and more people move to our cities in search of a better life, it is critical that we provide effective and sustainable infrastructure to meet their needs.”
– Alderman Ian Neilson, City of Cape Town’s Executive Deputy Mayor.

“New forms of urban planning in African cities seem to be dedicated to transforming them into replicas of Dubai, Shanghai and Singapore. The main challenge of the real estate sector on the continent currently is to find approaches to real estate development which are not only for the wealthy, and which find architectural and planning approaches which are not simplistic ‘cut and pastes’ of cities elsewhere in the world.”
– Prof Vanessa Watson, of the School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics, University of Cape Town.

“The Voortrekker Road Corridor offers a unique opportunity to invest in the urban core of Cape Town in one of its most important transit-oriented development corridors, taking advantage of the central location and extensive public transport infrastructure.”
– Councillor Johan van der Merwe, the City of Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee Member for Energy, Environmental and Spatial Planning.

“Arup recently completed a transit orientated development masterplan for the light rail transit system in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.The project focused on realising the economic potential of the key stations along the light rail system; while regenerating the city, thereby making use of hard infrastructure systems to unlock multiple gains that improve the social and economic prosperity of citizens”.
– Nico Venter, Associate Director at Arup’s Johannesburg Office, responsible for the Urban Design and Cities Business in South Africa.

“We passionately believe that Africa is a continent of opportunity. With improving economies, rising populations, rapid rates of urbanisation and burgeoning middle classes, some African cities are expected to grow between 70-100% in the next 15 years.”
– Mr Jean-Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General of the United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLGA) – patron of the African Real Estate & Infrastructure Summit.
More key findings that emerged during the African Real Estate & Infrastructure Summit included:
-African countries need to adopt new development models designed to take advantage of urbanisation by facilitating structural transformation, creating jobs and addressing social inequality and poverty, while creating sustainable human settlements with equal opportunity for all.
-The future of Africa is at stake and the future of Africa will be more and more linked to how cities are managed and the way they choose to contribute to African unity.
-Careful, complex, thorough administrative management and pro-poor urban development will turn African cities into world-class cities, not design plans based on fantasy Dubai-esque city makeovers.
-The city is the centre of the emancipated state and social media needs to be harnessed to unleash the potential of Africa’s smart cities.
-The City of Cape Town has invested over R22 billion in infrastructure over the last five years, and needs to provide an additional 650 000 housing opportunities over the next 20 years.
-Merely pursing low-density low-cost housing on the outskirts of the cities is not an option. Innovative thinking must be part of the solutions for urbanisation challenges and partnerships between the public and private sectors play an important role.

Major infrastructure and building projects and opportunities on the continent featured at the African Real Estate & Infrastructure Summit included:
-Cape Town’s Voortrekker Corridor Road Integration Zone Strategy and Investment Plan
-Joburg’s Corridors of Freedom for a people-centred city
-Kimisange, Kicukiro 237 and Kicukiro 968 in Kigali, Rwanda
-Transit Oriented Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
-The PDGML – General Master Plan for Luanda, Angola
-Comprehensive Urban Development Plan (CUDP) for the City of Lusaka, Zambia
Kampala Physical Development Plan, Uganda
-PARURA SFAX – The Master Plan for Taparura Project, Tunisia

The African Real Estate & Infrastructure Summit was organised by Spintelligent, leading Cape Town-based trade exhibition and conference organiser, and the African office of Clarion Events Ltd, based in the UK.

Spintelligent is well known for organising exhibitions and conferences across the continent in the infrastructure, energy, mining, agriculture and education sectors. Longstanding flagship events by Spintelligent include African Utility Week, East African Power Industry Convention (EAPIC), West African Power Industry Convention (WAPIC), Agritech Expo, DRC Mining Week and EduWeek.