I just revisited a travel blog on the Africa.com site on “The Top 10 Most Liveable Cities in Africa” that was published last October.
Number one, and not surprisingly, was Cape Town. Then (2) Accra, (3) Nairobi, (4) Johannesburg, (5) Gaborone, (6) Libreville – just so there is no confusion, that is in Gabon, (7) Tunis, (8) Dar es Salaam, (9) Windhoek and, (10) Kigali.
The list suggests many things, one being that West Africans don’t know how to manage cities. Another listing I saw sometime back of the dirtiest cities in the world had quite many West African capitals on them. That said, those western African cities are full of life.
Secondly, because Kampala and Bujumbura are the only East African Community cities that didn’t make the list, that Ugandans and Burundians are the most hopeless in the region at running cities.
Nairobi, we are told, is “fast becoming the African city of choice for multinational companies seeking a foothold for their African operations.
Nairobi is a gracious city that possesses much of the sophistication of the large South African cities, but provides these offerings in a “kinder and gentler” way.
General Electric and the Rockefeller Foundation recently chose Nairobi to anchor the African operations, so too the likes of China’s CCTV news broadcaster.
About Dar es Salaam, not much. Just that it is “a rapidly growing city, from the new infrastructural projects to its people, literally. With an annual population increase of over three per cent each year, it’s the third fastest growing city in Africa—and one of the fastest in the world! It also has a large expatriate community.”
For Kigali, that; “From the expansion of its Central Business District to the recent road construction project to help ease traffic congestion, Rwanda’s capital is slowly becoming one of the most rapidly developing cities on the continent…and there’s also a large community of expats here who get to enjoy the diversity the city has to offer.”
I wouldn’t have rated Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, or Kigali for those reasons. Still, the exclusion of Kampala and Bujumbura is worth debating.
First, nearly all the EAC capitals are dirty, but Kampala and Bujumbura need to do more than the rest to clean up.
We should be kind to Bujumbura. It is still a city recovering from war. Its bigger problem, though, might be philosophical. What does Bujumbura want to be; a city on the lake (Tanganyika), a city in the valley, or a city on the hills? When it sorts that out, it will find its groove.
Kampala has two things it needs to do. One of them simple – deal with the bodabodas (motorcycle taxis). Bring them to order, and build them dedicated lanes.
The second problem is more complex. Recently an article in the Daily Monitor noted that as countries develop, eventually cities and towns take over villages (as in China). In Uganda, it observed, the reverse is happening. Kampala is perhaps the only city that is succeeding in turning into a village, it said.
How you “devillagise” the capital of a country whose leaders treat it like their village, I don’t know. And I don’t know anyone who does.
Charles Onyango-Obbo is Nation Media Group’s executive editor for Africa & Digital Media. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @cobbo3