China occupies a prominent role in the economy of most African countries. In less than two decades, China became one of the most important trading partners and largest financier of infrastructure projects in Africa. From its early diplomatic efforts during the Cold War to derail any influence Taiwan and the Soviet Union could have on the continent, China shifted gears at the beginning of this century to focus on trade and economic development. Today, China’s investments in Africa are spread through a range of sectors, taking on the most grandiose infrastructure projects that were put aside since Africa’s colonial times. For all this, China’s influence on the continent is unrivalled and only seems to grow.
Following the end of the Korean War in 1953, South Korea prioritised its alliance with the United States in pursuit of economic growth and military security. It took more than a decade since the end of the war until South Korea essentially inaugurated diplomatic relations with African states. The early years of its diplomacy in Africa focused on securing formal support from African nations for South Korea’s entry to the United Nations.
However, Korea’s interest in Africa remained low during the Cold War. North Korea was years ahead forging diplomatic links with Soviet-supported African countries when South Korea began to intensify its approach on the continent. South Korea had maintained a one-Korea policy, which prevented African countries from having simultaneous diplomatic relations with the two Koreas. In face of the limitations this policy imposed, South Korea abandoned the strategy in 1973.
The centrepiece of the evolution of any city is access to electricity. However, this basic element of modern life, and what most of the people take for granted, does not reach a large proportion of the population living in Sub-Saharan Africa. Only 40% of the people in that region have access to electricity. This number gets even smaller in the rural areas, where less than 25% of the population can turn on a lamp at night (Figure 1). This is the third article of the “Urbanization in Sub-Saharan Africa” series, following “City Master Plans” and “Affordable Housing.”
The growing urban population in Sub-Saharan Africa is rapidly driving up the demand for affordable housing in urban areas. On the one hand, there is the opportunity to build a more inclusive future, where every citizen has a decent house to call home. With the right policies and focused implementation, cities can concentrate businesses and services such as schools, hospitals and police, which allow more people to enjoy them. On the other hand, there is the difficulty of building infrastructure at a faster pace than that of the growth of the urban population, and of revamping slums and poorly planned areas. This is the second article on the “Urbanization in Sub-Saharan Africa” series, following the “City Master Plans” article.
Smart cities leverage on technology and use the large amount of data their citizens generate every second to optimize resources, to connect people and to improve business and trading. A smart city targets energy savings and adopts environmentally friendly technologies, which helps promoting sustainable development.
Nairobi and Cape Town rank among the most advanced cities on the African continent on the smart city front. Nairobi, capital of Kenya and home to over 3 million people, won the title of Most Intelligent City in Africa for two years in a row. Going south, Cape Town blossoms as one of the best places to do business in the continent as the South African government continuously implements thoughtful planning and cutting edge technology to attract businesses and improve the lives of its citizens. Both Nairobi and Cape Town look at Singapore as a role model for the city of the future.
The East African Community (EAC) is an economic bloc formed by Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. The countries have a history of cooperation dating back to the early 20th century. In the recent years, they have started various infrastructure projects to improve the connection between its members, ultimately decreasing the cost of doing business and making the bloc more attractive to trade with foreign countries.
Singapore is enjoying this opportunity, with investments in the African continent growing at a compound rate of 12% per year; the city-state has traded more than US$400 million with the EAC alone in 2013. Singapore is currently involved in various businesses in the region, ranging from agriculture to digital logistics solutions, and is eager to expand its presence even more. This pace will increase as legal frameworks and institutions covering the whole EAC bloc gain strength and eliminate corruption in the region; and when basic infrastructure problems are solved and an easy flow of goods and services is reached in the region.
The East African coast occupies a strategic position that allows maritime connections between the African continent and the Middle East and Asia. The ports of Mombasa, in Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, in Tanzania, are the most important in the region and, since the colonial times, compete to be the most relevant in East Africa. Million of tonnes of goods are imported through both of them from other coastal countries and continents and exported to the world.