China Builds Future Capital of Africa – Modderfontein, South Africa

A Chinese developer has begun building a city on 1 600 hectares of land between Sandton and OR Tambo airport. The developers, Shanghai Zendai, see it as the future capital of Africa and on a par with New York.

It will be built over the next 10-15 years, in conjunction with local builders, eventually creating a space for 300 000 people to live and work. There will be business and cultural centers, schools, retirement communities, and a trade and light industry park.

The East Rand land was sold by chemicals and explosives company AECI two years ago, making it one of the largest single foreign investments in the country. It’s expected to become a hub for Chinese firms investing in sub-Saharan Africa, and for those companies seeking to do business with China.

On the ‘fantasy’ of adopting a Dubai-like reskinning of current African cities, UCT city planning Professor Vanessa Watson asks: ‘What will be the outcome? Will Africa have better cities that function well for all their residents? My guess is exactly the opposite. Cities will become highly unequal… public spending on infrastructure will be skewed in favor of the new urban projects and there will be even less money than there is now to provide basic services for poor communities.’

Modderfontein city plans to address this with integrated low-cost housing that seeks to embrace residents of nearby Alexandra. In order to prevent an Elysium-style disparity, Watson advises that ‘cities have to be seen as integrated and inclusive wholes, recognising the interdependency of their parts.’  – Nkosiyati Khumalo

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